Horry County to reduce EDC funding by $500,000

sjones@thesunnews.comMay 21, 2013 

— The Horry County Council agreed Tuesday night to end its $500,000 annual allocations for the product development fund of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. and to call for a 2014 referendum to let the public decide on future funding for the organization.

The board further said it would reduce the time remaining on its contract with the EDC from three years to two years, but set no requirements for the jobs the EDC must create.

The EDC is now finishing the second of a five-year, $1.8 million a year contract with the county in which the organization was expected to create 500 new jobs by the end of this fiscal year. But the county and the EDC disagreed about the specifics of how those jobs would be counted.

The EDC believes it has nearly met its commitment because new and expanded businesses have committed to 458 jobs. However, some councilmen believe that only those jobs now getting a paycheck should be counted, meaning the EDC is about 250 jobs short of its goal.

The Council’s action Tuesday night was in the form of a resolution that directed staff to do what’s necessary to follow its wishes.

Brad Lofton, EDC CEO, said he saw the Council’s action as a vote of confidence.

“They’ve given us 24 months of funding with no job requirements,” he said.

Lofton also said that the EDC may ask the county for product development funds on a case by case basis. Product development is the purchase of sites to entice industries to locate in Horry County. Lofton said the EDC now has $900,000 in the fund.

The other $100,000, from the $1 million in the fund so far, went to pay a consultant for a study on which sites the organization might want to own, Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said before the meeting that the absence of that report was the reason for the reduction in funding.

The EDC contracted for the study about two years ago, but Lofton said it had not yet been completed because of a personal tragedy in the consultant’s family.

He said he expects it to be finished within two months.

Lazarus said that the EDC’s funding will be up to the voters in the 2014 referendum, which will determine if they feel the organization’s efforts are worth dedicating an ongoing portion of the millage rate.

“Under this scenario, we’re giving them two years to perform,” Lazarus said.

He said that if the EDC lands just two or three of the industries that it is now negotiating with, he’s confident that it will be judged successful.

On the other hand, he said, “If in two years they haven’t brought us anything, we will discuss that too.”

He said cutting the remaining term of the contract from three years to two years means the county won’t have to use any general fund dollars for the EDC.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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