What a year 2017 has been!
A year that brought us a new president, new governor and great economic promise has also been soured with terrorism, natural disasters and threats of war. Here along the Grand Strand, we’ve witnessed our share of ups and downs, as well.
The first half of 2017 yielded impressive economic gains for our local economy. Unfortunately, that good news was met with shootings, storms and other challenges. With so much negative publicity and a very active hurricane season, some might assume that our tourism industry has experienced steep declines this year, but thankfully that’s not the case.
Through the first 10 months of 2017, Grand Strand tourism revenues are up 4.7 percent over last year. And, comparing to 2014 (the last year with no hurricane or flooding impact) tourism revenues are up 14.7 percent. Add to this yet another record year of growth at Myrtle Beach International Airport, where we recently welcomed our one millionth passenger. Perhaps the best news of all is the growth in employment: as of the most recent reports, 2,288 additional hospitality jobs have been created this year, meaning more of our friends and neighbors are gainfully employed.
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These positive economic trends are not limited to tourism. Our real estate sector is healthy and strong, with property values rising and sales of commercial and residential properties growing. The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation continues to score victories in attracting new industry to our area, which helps to diversify our economy. Our medical industry continues to grow, with 518 additional jobs added this year. And, after decades of work, the federal government has finalized the permitting process for the much-needed interstate connection to I-95.
With so many problems and challenges facing our community, state and nation, one might naturally assume this has been a disappointing year for the Grand Strand economy. Yet that’s simply not the case. Tourism is growing, real estate is selling, new jobs are being created and significant road improvements are planned. Why?
We can point to many reasons, but one that stands clear above all others is our resilience. The resilience of a thriving tourism industry to attract more visitors, despite negative publicity. The resilience of a real estate industry to grow, despite economic uncertainties. The resilience of local leaders to invest in more jobs and better infrastructure. The resilience of working men and women throughout the Grand Strand who show up day after day, committing their time and talents to serving others. And, the resilience of a community to work together for common goals.
While 2018 may bring new challenges, we can be certain that the Grand Strand community will continue to rise above and enjoy growth and prosperity for many years to come.
Brad Dean is the president and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB