City, County Leaders taking strategic steps to plan for the future of the Grand Strand

Reprint: Op-ed from Myrtle Beach Herald

By: Carla Schuessler, Chair, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Census Bureau information indicates that for the third year in a row, the Grand Strand was the second-fastest growing metropolitan area in the entire country. Yearlong residents and visitors alike have no-doubt experienced some of those growing pains, but it hasn’t deterred people from coming to our destination for their vacation, or from calling the Grand Strand home. In fact, 45 people move to the Myrtle Beach area every day, according to the same Census Bureau information. In 2017, the Myrtle Beach area had 19.6 million visitors – up from a little over 18 million in 2016.

This growth requires leadership that works to maintain the quality of life that have drawn so many to our area, but also plans for the needs of future visitors and new residents. Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been working hard this spring and summer on several projects to do just that – strike the balance between maintaining what we all love and planning for the future.

Earlier this spring, Myrtle Beach City Council took a proactive approach to marketing our destination by reauthorizing the Tourism Development Fee. The majority of the revenues generated by this fee helps attract new first-time visitors to our area. The remaining balance is dedicated to safety improvements, capital projects and a tax abatement for city residents. City Council recognized that year-round residents & small business owners thrive from a strong tourism market. 

City Council continues to activate outdoor spaces to create fun, family-friendly activities for current visitors and residents. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Bonanza, taking place every Wednesday and Thursday night at the old Pavilion site features live entertainment, food trucks and family activities – free of cost to all residents and visitors. City Council has demonstrated a commitment to revitalizing the downtown area and have done so while engaging local business owners in the process.

At the County Level, Horry County Council demonstrated a commitment to quality of life as well as continued growth throughout the county by dedicating a part of revenues generated by the County’s hospitality fee towards the construction of the Horry County portion of Interstate 73. 

Congress designated Interstate 73 as a high priority corridor way back in 1991. The proposed Interstate will run from the Great Lakes region to the Coast of South Carolina. In June 2017, the Trump Administration issued the permit to begin construction of I-73. President Trump and other leaders in Washington, DC recognized the project as a priority because of the studies that have indicated that the Interstate will lead to over 29,000 jobs and have an economic impact of over $2 billion. It will also serve as a pivotal evacuation route in the event of a natural disaster or hurricane for residents and visitors.

 Horry County Council 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. Horry County is showing leaders in Columbia and Washington, DC that they have a dance partner in South Carolina that is willing to chip-in to help make this decades-long dream a reality. Horry County’s elected delegation in the State House and Senate has been, and will remain, instrumental in the success of this project.

With no signs of growth in Myrtle Beach or Horry County slowing down, we will count on our leaders to continue to make proactive decisions to maintain the area that we have all come to love, while planning for the future. Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have struck the right balance and should be applauded for their efforts. The business community stands ready to continue working with these leaders to keep the Myrtle Beach Area at the top of both destination and relocation lists.