The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce’s quest for more state money to lure tourists won’t be satisfied by the House budget talks this week, but that doesn’t mean it’s over for this year.
State Rep. Tracy Edge, R-North Myrtle Beach, said that he expects a new state revenue projection to show an additional $200 million in income when it comes out in a couple of weeks, and Marc Jordan, president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, wants to be ready to compete for the money when the time comes.
Jordan said the chamber is working on a bill that could be put in the hopper if the projection is as optimistic as Edge expects.
The North Myrtle Beach chamber now gets $90,000 a year in a grant for marketing from the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. But it does not share in $6 million that PRT sends to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for advertising the whole Grand Strand. The money is available on a 2-to-1 public/private match to S.C. chambers that promote regions, hence the rule that the money cannot be used to promote just Myrtle Beach.
The North Myrtle Beach chamber turned down a $100,000 pass-along from Myrtle Beach’s $6 million last year because officials didn’t want to jeopardize the $90,000 grant.
Rather, North Myrtle Beach chamber officials are trying to convince legislators that PRT needs to establish a separate grant source to go to medium-sized chambers.
Edge said because he authored the legislation that set up the fund for regional tourism marketing, he would be willing to spearhead a change in the current law that cuts North Myrtle Beach from the funding loop.
Jordan said North Myrtle Beach chamber officials have already spoken with people at PRT, but were told that they can do nothing because the agency doesn’t have the money for new grant funding.
Hence, the chamber’s entree to legislators.
While Edge talks about possibly allowing the North Myrtle Beach chamber to compete for funds from the $12 million pot that is the source of Myrtle Beach’s $6 million, Jordan said his organization doesn’t want to be added to the group.
“There are just too many people who don’t want us dipping into that pot,” he said, “and we agree with them.”
Jordan said North Myrtle Beach already has pledges from some of the city’s businesses for $500,000 a year to use for marketing, and the money could be used to match state grant funds.
He said the chamber is now gathering information to show legislators how the state benefits financially from dollars spent on tourism marketing. A study done for the chamber by Coastal Carolina University said that there are more than $800,000 in tax revenues from each $500,000 spent on marketing.
But that’s a message legislators have heard as far as the money for regional tourism marketing, Edge said. The General Assembly gave PRT just half what it gets now for regional tourism marketing grants just three years ago.
“We’ve increased the funding because it’s been so successful,” he said.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.