MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – United States census data has revealed Myrtle Beach was the second fastest-growing metropolitan area in America between 2016 and 2017, according to an online posting from the city of Myrtle Beach.
The population in Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and the Conway metropolitan area increased from 447,793 in 2016 to 464,165 in 2017, an increase of 3.7 percent.
Census data shows the population in Horry County increased by 10,926 over that time span, while the population in Brunswick County increased by 3,944.
St. George, Utah was the fastest growing metropolitan area, with a population increase of 4 percent, the post states. Myrtle Beach grew 3.9 percent during the previous period, from July 2015 to July 2016.
Robert Salvino, a research economist and the associate director of the Grant Center for Real Estate and Economic Development at Coastal Carolina University, said some of the driving factors behind the growth are low cost of living, low taxes, warm weather and a leisure lifestyle for retirees.
The high level of construction of brand new homes is to accommodate all the growth.
"People like new homes. If you look at St. George, Utah, which is No. 1 on the list, for the size area they are, which is much smaller than our area, they also have a very high permit volume for single family. They are building houses for people who want to retire there," Salvino said. "In the summer and shoulder seasons, our population is as if we have much more than one million here, so our infrastructure has to be able to accommodate that."
David Schwerd, deputy director for Horry County Planning and Zoning, said their guide right now is the Imagine 2040 comprehensive plan, which projects half a million residents. To accommodate that, public facilities, schools, fire and EMS, and hospitals all need to work in conjunction to know what's coming.
Schwerd said there is still enough land and approved projects in the unincorporated parts of Horry County to accommodate at least 80 percent of future growth, focusing east of the Waccamaw River.
The RIDE III penny sales tax helps foot the bill for infrastructure projects. Work will also continue on the comprehensive plan, as well as tweaking plans for the 2018 budget, according to Schwerd.
"If you look at some new construction projects around, you're going to see all those major hospital firms are building too and that's bringing in jobs, those highly specialized, high-paying jobs - nurses, nurse practitioners, radiologists, these types of things," he said. "If you form a T along Highway 501 and 17, that's where you're going to see the growth coming.
E.F Hucks Consulting, LLC notes new or existing sales volume of single-family homes came in at $731 million in 2017.
In terms of ever constraining the growth, Salvino said local challenges are different and more so environmental, focusing on bodies of water, wetlands and zoning ordinances.