County Council to scrutinize its funding for Myrtle Beach EDC

sjones@thesunnews.comFebruary 20, 2013 

— New jobs from a new employer that the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. likely will announce next month may not count toward the fiscal year 2013 goal set for the organization by the Horry County Council.

And if they don’t, the EDC may not get as much county money for fiscal 2014 as it has had for fiscal 2013.

The tally depends on whether the jobs are currently filled by employees being paid to do them or jobs that the company has committed to create in Horry County at sometime in the future. The goal is 500 new jobs, and EDC officials and at least some council members count them differently.

“I count them as W-2s,” said Councilman Carl Schwartzkopf, a sentiment shared by Councilman Harold Worley.

Both said the council will be discussing the situation and county funding for the EDC at the council’s budget retreat in April, a discussion that could determine the immediate future of the EDC. Worley said the majority of council members count the jobs the same way he and Schwartzkopf do.

The county has a five-year agreement to give the EDC $1.8 million a year. But the funding depends on the EDC meeting the county’s jobs goal.

EDC officials have been promoting for a couple of months a jobs count as being those that companies have committed during this fiscal year to create in Horry County.

“We’re very close to our goal,” Doug Wendel, EDC board chairman, said at a meeting Wednesday morning.

Brad Lofton, EDC president, said the jobs-to-be-announced “will move us very close to the finish line.”

By Wendel’s and Lofton’s count, the organization has brought 458 jobs to Horry County this fiscal year.

By Schwartzkopf’s and Worley’s count, the number is 233.

“We understand that the County Council is sensitive to counting W-2’s and we are working to create them just as quickly as we can,” Lofton said in an email. “The committed jobs (458) to date is typically how EDC’s around the country normally count jobs. When we began this journey it was never specified specifically how these jobs would be counted. We work with Council monthly to keep them in the loop on our efforts and understand they have a job to do as well.”

Councilman Gary Loftus agreed with Lofton that the county’s agreement with the EDC doesn’t specify how the jobs will be counted. He also agreed that the committed jobs count is the way that nearly all EDCs count the jobs they create.

But he also agreed with Worley that the majority of council members are counting W-2s, not commitments.

“I’ve been telling the EDC the council counts W-2s,” Loftus said.

Loftus said the council should clarify the method at its budget retreat and move on from there.

It doesn’t matter to him how they are counted, he said, but he added that it’s not productive for the two sides to “shake fingers at each other.”

Schwartzkopf likened his count as being the same that athletic boosters would use to judge the worth of a coach.

“At the end of the year,” he said, “you’re going to get paid for your victories.”

Schwartzkopf said that council members will have two choices if the EDC doesn’t meet the goal as the majority of the members tabulate it.

One would be to put the EDC on probation.

The other would be to discontinue its funding altogether.

The latter, he agreed, “is pretty harsh, but that’s the way life is in the business world.”

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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