Horry County economic development officials plan to patch together a system where the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. will keep its momentum in the absence of a chief executive officer.
Brad Lofton, the current CEO, has resigned to return to Georgia, and Fred Richardson, MBREDC board chairman, and Mark Lazarus, executive committee member, said that Richardson, executive committee members and EDC staff will be able to keep track of about 20 active projects that Lofton will leave behind.
Lofton announced his resignation Tuesday, three days before EDC officials planned to do so. The reason for the planned Friday announcement, Lazarus said, was that Lofton’s new employers won’t formalize his contract until Thursday, and they didn’t want the announcement before that happened.
“Then he talked,” Lazarus said, referring to Lofton’s talk Monday to the Conway Kiwanis Club, where he said he was leaving his job.
Officials aren’t saying where Lofton plans to go in Georgia. He came to Horry County from the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority in Georgia.
Richardson, CEO of Grand Strand Water and Sewer, and Lazarus, Horry County Council chairman, said the EDC executive committee will hold a special meeting Wednesday to decide on the process for replacing Lofton.
Both said they expect to have a formal search guided by a committee, and both said that they want it to be deliberate but not prolonged.
The two were uncertain of Lofton’s last day on the job locally, but they narrowed it down to between Aug. 12 and Aug. 15.
“It could waiver,” Lazarus said of the exact date.
Lazarus said Richardson will spend some time at the EDC office two to three days a week in the interim, “to stay on top of things.”
But Lazarus was confident in the EDC staff’s ability to function smoothly until a new director is hired.
He said that the EDC has about 20 active projects it is working on.
Lazarus said that the EDC board likely will look for a director who has direct economic development experience and a proven track record of recruiting industry.
Personally, he would be looking for someone who has an aggressive, sales-type personality, knows the process of industry recruitment and has the business skills to run an organization with an annual budget around $1.5 million.
“We want to give ourselves time to get the right person, but we’re going to move expeditiously,” Richardson said.
Lazarus said that the EDC is far ahead of where it was when Lofton came on board about three years ago. During Lofton’s tenure, Horry County announced more than 1,500 new jobs with three corporate headquarter locations.
“We’ve put a lot of time and effort into this,” Lazarus said, “and we don’t want it to go backwards.”
Lazarus didn’t say where Lofton would be going and Richardson said he was asked by Lofton not to divulge the location before Thursday’s meeting in Georgia.
Lofton would not comment.