By: Jimmy Gray, Director of Government Affairs
The Myrtle Beach Area business community has much to be thankful for this holiday season. While we have a jam-packed agenda of legislative priorities on the docket for 2019, it’s important to reflect on what we were able to accomplish over the past 365 days. 2018 was a year of transition for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. At the start of 2018, my position within the MBACC didn’t even exist. We have a new President & CEO and new leaders at all levels of government. Despite all these changes, it’s safe to say we have a healthier business climate at this point in 2018 than we did just a year ago. I wanted to take a moment with this column to reflect on those successes at the National, State, County and City levels. We’ll only focus on the top accomplishment for each level.
Federal: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
When Congress delivered on the first real tax reform proposal since 1986, there was much speculation on both sides about the impact of these new policies. You’ll remember that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered the individual tax rates for low and middle-income Americans. The standard deduction was doubled, allowing those who opt to go that route to keep more of their hard-earned dollars. The legislation also lowered the corporate tax rate with the idea of preventing American jobs, headquarters and research from moving overseas. The result: record low unemployment nationwide and in South Carolina. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report showed that the United States is back to being the world’s most competitive economy. South Carolina’s own Senator Tim Scott (Senate Finance) and Representative Tom Rice (House Ways and Means) helped author this legislation that has bolstered our local and national economies.
State: Automatic Stay Reform
South Carolinians have grown accustom to waiting years, sometimes decades, for infrastructure projects to become a reality. The timeline from when a new road concept is designed to when the first car drives on the fresh asphalt is long, complex and redundant. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can balance growth and new infrastructure projects with protecting precious natural resources in a timely manner. This past Spring, the South Carolina General Assembly and Governor McMaster did just that by passing S 105 into law. This legislation, known as “automatic stay reform,” will help pave the way for new infrastructure projects to move forward in a timely fashion, while giving appropriate legal consideration to environmental concerns. The new reforms will help prevent long delays on projects like International Drive or the proposed Southern Evacuation Lifeline (SELL). Horry County’s own Senator Luke Rankin and Representative Russell Fry were the sponsors of these important reforms.
County: Up to $25M/year for I-73
County leaders demonstrated an ability to react in a timely manner to address immediate and future needs when circumstances present themselves. President Trump and Congress are gearing up to consider legislation to improve our nation’s infrastructure. Governor McMaster’s administration recently applied for a federal grant for Interstate 73. Knowing that the federal government values local buy-in for infrastructure and interstate projects, Horry County stepped up to the plate and voted to dedicate up to $25 million per year towards the Horry County construction of Interstate 73. County leaders showed officials in Columbia and Washington, DC that they have a dance partner in South Carolina that is willing to chip-in and help make this decades-long dream a reality.
City: A New Vision for downtown Myrtle Beach
City Council continues to activate outdoor spaces to create fun, family-friendly activities for current visitors and residents. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Bonanza featured live entertainment, food trucks and family activities – free for all residents and visitors – every week throughout the summer. City leaders also took steps to clean up some of the products being offered by downtown merchants, bolstering the family friendly feel to our downtown. Council has engaged the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation to create a fresh vision for the downtown area, by working closely with consultants that have revitalized downtowns around the country and world.
With your help, we’ll hope to implement a 2019 advocacy agenda that was as successful as the agenda in 2018. The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has new tools that we will deploy in 2019 that will empower the business community to take a proactive approach in advocacy. We sincerely hope that the business community will remain engaged in the legislative process. If we hope to improve on these successes, it will certainly take an all-hands-on-deck approach.