Technology startup initiative in Myrtle Beach gets $250,000 state grant

sjones@thesunnews.comMay 8, 2014 

The Grand Strand Technology Council has gotten a $250,000 state grant for the Grand Strand Startup Initiative, which will help budding entrepreneurs learn the things and skills they will need to convert their ideas into businesses.

The Initiative will have offices in Litchfield, but one of the organizers said their help won’t be confined by county lines. Some of the startups birthed at the Initiative could be located in Horry County.

“I would be ecstatic if we got to the point where we had more people than we can handle,” said Mike Schroll, a Technology Council member and a key figure in CoWork MYR, a Myrtle Beach company that offers workspace for people starting Internet-based businesses.

The grant needs a matching amount that doesn’t come from state government, and Schroll said he hopes a large chunk of that will come through a federal grant. Georgetown County will give the Initiative $50,000, but money from Horry County could be harder to come by.

Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., said he plans to ask his board for $25,000 annual funding for technology-based startups, but will have a hard time recommending the Georgetown Initiative unless it has some kind of formal presence in Horry County.

Details are still being worked out, and Lofton said he might accept the Initiative’s funneling entrepreneurs into a planned Technology Village that would be a joint effort of Clemson University and the city of Conway.

“Feeding leads to them has been part of our proposal from day one,” Schroll said.

He said the Initiative would expand to more offices as there is a need, and it will look at options for those offices when the time comes.

The Initiative got its Georgetown County base from the efforts of Brian Tucker, the new chairman of the county’s economic development effort.

Tucker had worked with Schroll and CoWork on a startup weekend in Georgetown when Tucker was president of the Chamber of Commerce. When he moved into his current job, he sought them out for a long-term relationship.

The Initiative offices will have space for a co-work facility and CoWork MYR will disband and move its efforts there, Schroll said. The office will also have help on marketing to out-of-market customers.

He said that the Conway/Clemson Technology Village will be focused on startups in life sciences and biotechnology. Schroll and two partners have formed CoCelerator as an incubator for businesses destined to work heavily through the Internet. A third incubator is being formed for light manufacturing businesses by two Georgetown residents, Schroll said.

Schroll said the typical student he expects to see at the Initiative is a person who has been with the same company for 10 years and has constantly faced a particular problem for which he has a solution. He or she thinks it would make a great business, but doesn’t really know anything about how to get it from his head to customers.

The Initiative would be a first step, where Schroll said such budding entrepreneurs will be led through the steps to at least get to a 10-slide presentation. That could be used to find funding, he said.

“You don’t need a lot of resources to get started,” he said. “All you need is Internet connections and a laptop.”

Those who might need more help could go to an incubator to get it.

Technology startups could have a significant economic impact in Horry County, according to a study consultant Henry Lowenstein did for the Myrtle Beach EDC.

With 140 jobs paying $50,000 each per year, the net payroll would be nearly $6 million which would turn into $9.5 million as it is spent through the local economy. He said there could be 382 direct, indirect and other jobs created by the startups that would have a total estimated economic impact of $15.5 million.

Direct state and local taxes paid would amount to $384,000, according to the study.

But the payoff could be even higher, according to figures Schroll supplied from salary.com, an online career development and job search company.

They showed that the median annual beginning level pay for web developers and hardware engineers is more than $50,000 a year. Median pay for senior level personnel in those positions go as high as $128,000. Median pay for entry-level IT project managers is more than $73,000, which goes to nearly $100,000 for senior level managers.

“These are high quality jobs we can create,” Schroll said.

Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765.

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