Economic development becomes key topic at Myrtle Beach planning retreat

Myrtle Beach leaders begin 2019 budget retreat

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - The city of Myrtle Beach kicked off its planning retreat on Thursday where leaders discussed several issues, but economic development seemed to the main topic.

Economic development is one of the city’s five strategic initiatives. Some of what the city has accomplishment includes adopting the downtown master plan, implementing phase one of those plans and approving special events and festivals.

“When you want big things to happen, you have to dream big,” Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune said.

But there are some challenges city leaders will face heading into 2020.

One item discussed as a challenge was missed opportunities, such as beach weddings and commercialization along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Steve Taylor, the chairman for the Beach Advisory Committee, said allowing beach weddings could attract more tourism, which would boost our local economy.

“How many people do you know go to Las Vegas to get married? You can come to Myrtle Beach and they can still come to Myrtle Beach to get married but I think we could become a wedding destination,” Taylor said.

And something that wouldn’t be allowed on the beach.

“Soliciting on the beach is one of the key things, they would have to go down and have a prearranged appointment" Taylor said. "We are not looking for them to go down there [the beach] and say, ‘Hey do you want to have your picture made.’”

Another missed opportunity Myrtle Beach City Manager John Pedersen discussed was the commercial use of the Intracoastal Waterway.

In the discussion, the city council talked about opportunities for the area, and if it were to be delayed, they could lose the chance for commercial development along the waterway forever.

For the other four initiatives, one of the major discussions regarded public safety.

Some of the accomplishments for public safety this year were increased social media presence, technology improvements, reduction of crime and cooperation across all city departments.

But with every positive, there are challenges to face.

Some of the challenges heading into 2020 for public safety are the opioid crisis in our community, recruitment and retention and the beach.

With the beach, council discussed things like long-term staffing and equipment for the beach. They also need to keep up with technology.

“I think it’s the first one we have in the packet today but I think it’s the first one council always wants to talk about,” Pedersen said. “It’s hard to move those initiatives one over the other but it certainly has continued to be the first thing they put on their agenda to discuss and I think it’s their number one.”

The retreat continues Friday and one of the items on the agenda is capital improvement plans. Council will also open up the meeting for public comments.

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