The Sun News asked some of the Grand Strand’s business leaders to sum up their outlook for 2013 and talk about their plans for the year. Here’s what they had to say:
Brad Lofton, president of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp.
“The MBREDC continues to pick up momentum after a record year in 2012 with over 400 new non-tourism jobs announced. Our nationwide marketing plan and strategies are beginning to pay large dividends, and our community is one step closer to seeing true economic diversification for the first time in our history. Based on our pipeline of prospects and current status of negotiations with companies, we predict a number of new relocations announced along with additional existing industry expansions in 2013. Our goal is to continue the trend of aggressive outreach to new companies that are discovering Horry County as a great place not only to vacation, but also to do significant business.”
Dennis Wade, CEO of The Jackson Companies
“I see tourism [on the campground side] and commercial development remaining favorable and steady for 2013. I am trying to remain optimistic about the golf industry. We saw strong numbers in RV sales for 2012 and hope that will continue. Our Annual Lease Property sales were strong, comparable some months to the numbers we saw in 2006, which is hopeful for 2013. We plan on maintaining our workforce in 2013 with concern as to the impact of taxes and the new healthcare laws as it pertains to the tourism and hospitality industries with large seasonal, part-time and temporary workforces. As far as the economy overall, at this point, I think it is a ‘wait and see’ regarding taxes and their impact on job growth in America."
Tim Ruedy, area general manager, Frontier Communications
“Frontier Communications has had great success with the new call center that it opened last year and is working to add more employees. The goal for 2013 is a total headcount of 130... Frontier is also improving its product portfolio and now offers residential and business broadband speeds up to 40 MBPS [megabits per second] in select South Carolina markets including Myrtle Beach. These increased speeds are necessary as the world of data transmission and communication continue their migration to an all internet platform. We plan on bringing out several new IP products including Tandem which uses a Cisco handset.”
Bruce Bailey, CEO, Georgetown Hospital System
“Georgetown Hospital System will open a Surgery Pavilion at Waccamaw Community Hospital in the late spring. The 24,000-square foot expansion features four new ORs, seven recovery beds, six outpatient beds, two endoscopy rooms, a pathology lab and a consultation room. Georgetown Memorial Hospital continues a multiyear, major hospital renovation project. The facility will be re-roofed, heating and cooling systems will be replaced, the exterior of the hospital will be ‘re-skinned’ with a new exterior surface, a second floor nursing unit will undergo major renovation and the hospital’s main entrance will be relocated from Black River Road to Memorial Lane. Finally, hospital leadership will be carefully monitoring the State Legislature’s debate of Medicaid expansion in South Carolina. Participation in the expansion, which our organization supports, has the potential to provide insurance coverage for about 236,000 individuals statewide.”
David McMillan, managing partner of Drunken Jack’s restaurant in Murrells Inlet and chairman of the S.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association board
“I am approaching 2013 with cautious optimism. There is still a lot of uncertainty in our economy and everyone has already had a bite taken out of their paychecks so we all have less disposable income. This could affect vacation spending. Every restaurant and hotel operator is definitely concerned about the upcoming mandated health care requirements. The restaurant industry has experienced some tough challenges during the recession. We have seen commodity prices rise at an unprecedented pace and also across the board increases in utilities, insurance, services and labor costs. Our bottom line has become very thin.... From a statewide perspective, the SCRLA is keeping a close eye on the legislative agenda.
We expect the hospitality and tourism industry to continue to lead the charge to economic recovery for South Carolina.”
Mark Lazarus, attractions owner
“Wild Water and Wheels [in Surfside Beach] will continue to upgrade and spruce up its existing amenities. We will be adding more shade and cabanas, upgrades to our bathrooms. We will be adding more food offerings. We will be repainting the majority of our slides with fresh new bright colors. We feel 2013 will be on par with 2012. No price increase. We will be adding two extra Friday night specials. We have plans for a new ride for 2014...
[At the OD Amusement Park in North Myrtle Beach] we will be adding several new thrill rides including a Flying Bobs and a different line-up of kiddie rides. We are also working on more entertainment for the downtown area throughout the summer. We will be announcing a new line-up of bands including possibly a summerlong Battle of the Bands. We have bought our own portable 40-foot stage. Fireworks weekly is also a possibility for 2013. With the added entertainment and more thrill rides, we feel 2013 will be better than 2012.”
Suzanne Hinde, general manager, Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center
“We are anticipating growth this year over last year. Group booking pace is ahead of same time last year, which results in more revenue. We have seen the corporate group market grow this last year, and we are projecting greater growth in that market next year. Since the downturn in the economy, the larger conventions have not been booking as far out as they used to. We are now seeing more conventions being planned farther out, which will help our future years. We are optimistic about the future, but remain cautious on expenses due to the uncertainty of the economy.”
Marc Jordan, president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce
“We continue to be cautiously optimistic towards our North Myrtle Beach economy for 2013... ‘Building North Myrtle Beach,’ the chamber’s five-year growth and prosperity initiative, originally announced a $2.5 million dollar goal, but just last month due to positive response, raised the new goal to $3.5 million over five years, after already reaching the $2.5 million mark. These private sector funds are aimed at: growing the North Myrtle Beach visitor and destination market; and diversifying the economy by growing/attracting new jobs.
“With these added resources, we believe we can increase the economic impact of our visitors to close to $119 million, attracting 30,000 more visits during the year....This doesn’t even address the impact of our growing sports tourism sector with the 2014 opening of our city’s $14 million dollar sports complex.”
Laurence Bolchoz, president and CEO, Coastal Carolina National Bank
“I expect Coastal Carolina National Bank to continue to grow and make a significant difference in our community. We are positioned to make loans to local residents and businesses to aid in their recovery. Recent positive trends in our local housing market give tangible evidence that our economy is beginning to recover...In January, CCNB will be opening a branch in Garden City, which will provide more convenience for our customers and provide a platform for growth on the south end. We will also be relocating our headquarters this February to a larger more prominent location in Myrtle Beach [on Robert Grissom Parkway] which will provide added visibility for our company.”
Mike LaPier, director, Myrtle Beach International Airport
“I would say that we are cautiously optimistic that 2013 is setting up to be a good year for MYR in terms of passenger traffic. We remain hopeful that our airline partners will provide the capacity levels this market needs to continue its growth and we are working with them in that regard. We are hopeful that the most recent announcement by US Airways regarding Washington Reagan service is indicative of good things to come in 2013.”