CONWAY — It likely will be late September before a company that would bring 1,020 jobs to the area could start construction on a building in Horry County.
Project Blue, as the project has been dubbed, wants to begin construction around Sept.1, but the Horry County Council decided Tuesday to take its final vote to authorize borrowing $8 million for the project on Sept. 4 instead of Aug.21. The council gave second approval Tuesday to the $8 million general obligation bonds, but still must take another vote for it to be finalized.
County Councilman Harold Worley voted no, having said in the past that he supports the project but that the proposal presented to the council is too much of a financial risk.
The county has added a condition to the proposal that would terminate the agreement if the project doesn’t go forward as planned.
Brad Lofton, president and chief executive officer of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said the council moving the date to Sept.4 pushes the project back likely three weeks. It is significant to get a final approval from the county council to finalize the deal, he said.
“This is critical for the developer to start building. This is critical for the real estate piece,” Lofton said. “This pushes it back a little. Agreements are being drafted.”
If certain requirements are not met -- except for the construction of a building for Project Blue -- by Dec.31, then the county would not take on an $8 million debt for the project and would get out of buying the building if the company leaves after five years.
Under the proposal, if the company doesn’t stay longer than five years and EDC cannot find another tenant for the building, the county would purchase the 60,000-square-foot building from the developer along with 600 parking spaces and 10 acres at the beginning of year six for $7 million.
If the county has to buy the building back, Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, guarantees to loan the county $6 million for 10 years, if the facilities are used for economic development purposes, with the remaining $1 million coming from EDC’s product development fund.
If that happened, the county could use the building for a critical services complex, which would cost an additional $1 million to upgrade the building.
The county would contribute $1.25 million and Santee Cooper would give a $550,000 grant, for a $1.8 million cash incentive to Project Blue, reimbursing the company for furniture, fixtures and equipment.
The county’s agreements are contingent upon a written commitment from a Fortune 100 client that is working with the Project Blue company, according to the proposal.
Officials still won’t reveal the name and nature of Project Blue’s business because of confidentiality agreements until the deal is finalized, but Lofton has said it would be located in the Carolina Forest area, have a $30 million annual payroll and a $75 million annual economic impact on the area.
Project Blue is aiming at Carolina Forest because it is one of the fastest growing areas in the county, easily accessible to S.C.31 and U.S.501, and has a high labor draw, Lofton said. The 2010 census shows Carolina Forest's population exploded, going from 3,400 residents to 21,000 from 2000 to 2010.
The average wage would be $14.36 an hour for Project Blue jobs. All 1,020 jobs would have to be created within 10 months of the building being completed, according to the proposal.
Two other projects in the works would bring more than 130 manufacturing jobs to the Myrtle Beach area.
BauschLinnemann, which was dubbed “Project BL” by business recruiters, will build a new facility in the area and plans to start hiring for 34 new manufacturing jobs at the beginning of next summer.
A producer of surfaces and edge bandings for furniture makers, BauschLinnemann North America plans to consolidate its operations in Myrtle Beach, Conway and Greensboro, N.C., into a new 75,000-square-foot manufacturing and office facility on Harrelson Boulevard near the Myrtle Beach International Airport. The facility is expected to be completed by July, at which time the company will begin hiring.
Fifty-five jobs, which include an existing 21 employees at BauschLinnemann’s Myrtle Beach and Conway facilities, will be added in two years at the new location.
Lofton said Tuesday that BauschLinnemann was initially looking to move all its operations to Greensboro, but the EDC was able to convince the company to locate here.
Project AF, the name business recruiters use when talking about that company, would bring 79 new manufacturing jobs to the area. That project, which has gotten initial approval from the Horry County Council, requires two more votes from the council, and would be an expansion of an existing industry, Lofton said. The council likely will take those two votes in September.
Contact JANELLE FROST at 443-2404.