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Incentives key for success of economic development groups’ recruiting efforts

December 4, 2012 

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Thank you for the opportunity to provide my perspective on the article involving economic development incentives that ran in the weekend edition of The Sun News. The paper notes, quite effectively, that providing business incentives is a general practice today that is a part of every sophisticated economic development program in the country.

In order for economic development agencies like the Myrtle Beach Regional EDC (MBREDC) to be competitive in a global competitive market, it is critical that we have the tools to compete. There is nothing wrong with the public investing resources to create and maintain jobs. Without people in Horry County gainfully employed and paying taxes, and without business and industry here to augment that revenue, who would provide the local resources for education, public safety, recreation or other valuable services provided to our community? When administered effectively, economic development incentives are a critically important investment (not an expense) in the future growth, employment and vitality of our region.

Imagine Greenville, SC today without the success of BMW and the thousands of new jobs and ancillary development the BMW project created. An incentive investment from the state and local taxpayers two decades ago there led to a private sector resurgence that has reinvented the upstate economy as textiles and furniture manufacturing all but evaporated over the past thirty years. With BMW, Boeing, Continental Tire, Bridgestone, and others, our State is a very positive case study in how economic development incentives can work effectively!

The key is not whether or not incentives should be offered, but how they are offered, and is the taxpayer protected. In our case, we spend significant amounts of time performing economic impact analyses of our projects with the help of Coastal Carolina University. If the determined return on investment for the taxpayer is not realistic, significant and received within a short period of time, we do not proceed with the targeted incentive offering. Along with the South Carolina Department of Commerce, we do financial due diligence on the companies we work with, and prior to announcing any project with public incentives involved, we enter contractual agreements with the companies requiring performance of the company (typically jobs created, a certain wage and benefits are provided and capital investment levels are reached). If the company does not perform, either the incentives are not disbursed, or the company is contractually required to reimburse the county for any initial incentives provided.

Thanks to the courage and leadership of our elected officials and the generosity of the Horry County taxpayer, our economic development program now has incentive resources available to be competitive for the first time ever. The results of use of these recently provided incentives are clear. The MBREDC announced 400 new jobs in 2012, a 400 percent increase based on the new jobs announced by the EDC over the past five to ten years.

We currently have dozens of additional companies that are in the process of considering the Grand Strand with over 4,500 potential good paying jobs. Our incentive program with proper monitoring is working well, and the modest incentives we have utilized to date are a very small price to pay to stabilize and diversify our economy, create significant high paying year-round jobs and generate hundreds of thousands of tax dollars that will offset the EDC investment. The MBREDC incentives are a reasonable investment in our future that will allow us to reduce high unemployment and create jobs so our children and grandchildren will not have to leave the area for gainful employment.

The writer is president and CEO of Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development.

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