Five years after Myrtle Beach and Horry County completed the groundwork to bring businesses to the International Technology and Aerospace Park off Farrow Parkway, few have chosen to locate there.
The roughly 400 acres is owned by Horry County, and because of its proximity to the Myrtle Beach International Airport, some development requires FAA approval. Myrtle Beach invested $2.5 million and Horry County invested $500,000 in roads and other infrastructure on the site, which were completed in 2012.
But much of the usable land sits as unoccupied, grassy lots.
Myrtle Beach would collect business license fees from companies located there, but, “Right now, we’re collecting dirt,” Mayor John Rhodes said Tuesday.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said representatives of the site, including the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., are working to locate more businesses on the land.
“Sure, it’s frustrating for me,” Lazarus said. “But at the same time, I know we’re working extremely hard to get there.”
Josh Kay, president of the regional development group, said his organization is currently in talks with two healthcare groups to locate on the land. He declined to identify the businesses, but Lazarus said both companies are providers.
Kay also told Myrtle Beach City Council Tuesday that MBREDC had successfully courted Kingman Airline Services, which will occupy a hangar at 1114 Airdome Dr. The company is expected to bring 180 jobs over a period of five years and make an investment of $2.5 million in the area, Kay said.
Arizona-based Kingman, which Kay said will operate locally as Myrtle Air Services, has contracts with private, corporate and commercial carriers for maintenance work and storage. Their clients also include some recognizable brands like Spirit and Delta, Kay said.
“They were looking for an east coast operation,” Kay said. “We are able to get in front of their CEO and talk about the area.”
Myrtle Beach has contributed $40,000 a year for the past six years to MBREDC’s coffers. Myrtle Beach Spokesman Mark Kruea also said the city’s contribution has dropped to $25,000 in proposals for next year’s budget.
Horry County, by contrast, contributes $500,000 to the group’s operations.
On Tuesday, Kay said that new businesses also have to meet several criteria. Some of the land must be used for a purpose related to aeronautics, and uses like healthcare were only recently approved for other areas.
Buddy Styers, executive director of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Authority, said there’s been an “extensive effort” to find tenants. His group is not involved in courting tenants, but did pay for the initial engineering work that allowed the city and county to build necessary infrastructure on the ITAP.
“Economic development...is real complex, it’s very competitive and no matter how much effort you put in, it boils down to getting luck and having the right product when the right person [or] right company wants it,” Styers said.
Kay and city officials also said businesses have to fit with the character of the Market Common area.
Ed Carey, a Market Common resident, said, “It’s the right idea to get some airport-related stuff out there.” The ITAP and Market Common all sit on land that once used to be part of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.
Al Jacobs, a resident of Cresswind, which is directly across Farrow Boulevard from the ITAP, said he wasn’t concerned about most development there because the area’s proximity to the airport limits the size of buildings.
“As far as businesses go over there, it’s far enough away from us...that it shouldn’t really have any impact, as long as they don’t denude the area and take all the trees down,” he said.
But, he said, “An all-night manufacturing facility probably wouldn’t be very acceptable to us.”