Myrtle Beach EDC now has Project Volunteer

Project Blue, the code word for the proposed Covation call center, may be dead, but Brad Lofton, president of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., told executive committee members Wednesday that Project Volunteer is very much alive and he hopes the deal can be concluded in January.

Lofton said Project Volunteer is the expansion of a manufacturing business that’s located east of the Intracoastal Waterway. He wouldn’t name the company.

He said an announcement will be made after the Horry County Council takes a second reading Jan. 8 of an ordinance to designate the company’s land as a multi-county business park. The designation will give the company an additional $1,000 state tax credit for created jobs. Lofton said that the EDC will further offer the company $135,000 incentives when it hires all 56 employees at a specific salary.

The Project Volunteer report came a day after Lofton told Horry County Council that the EDC would no longer pursue Covation, which was considering opening a call center in Carolina Forest that would have created 1,020 jobs. Covation missed a November deadline for completing a Fortune 100 client contract and providing other information the EDC requested.

The EDC has announced 402 new jobs for Horry County in the past year.

They include 150 at AvCraft, 118 at Frontier Communications, 79 at Native Sons and 55 at BauschLinnemann. Although BauschLinnemann has not yet moved its corporate offices to Myrtle Beach from Greensboro, N.C., Lofton said the jobs count in the 2012 total because they were announced then.

Doug Wendel, EDC executive committee chairman, said there may be more good news on the horizon as Frontier Communications is thinking about expanding its operation on Lumber Street. Tim Ruedy, area general manager for Frontier, wouldn’t confirm Wendel’s statement, but he said the nationwide telecommunications company is planning some new products in 2013 that could require expansion at one of the company’s call centers.

He said Frontier is very pleased with the center it established in Myrtle Beach last year. He said the Myrtle Beach center’s employees are very customer friendly and that the local center has the lowest turnover of all the call centers in Frontier’s system.

“It’s far less than the industry average,” Ruedy said.

He said that Frontier planned to hire 110 employees when it announced the Myrtle Beach location earlier this year. He said there are about 120 employees now, a number he expects will climb to more than 130 within a couple of weeks.

He said the Myrtle Beach center will be hiring for a training class of about 20 people in January.

Frontier renovated its Myrtle Beach space in the spring and summer. Ruedy said the current call center employees are housed on the third floor and that there is a now-unused fourth floor with the same square footage as the third floor.

Lofton, in his report to the executive committee, said the average pay for the jobs announced in 2012 is $16.75 an hour, higher than the county average of an hourly $14.36.

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