A group of Chinese business leaders will come to Horry County in the coming weeks with plans to finalize a $100 million investment involving property west of the Intracoastal Waterway, officials confirmed this week.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus, who recently returned from a 16-day trip to China with Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, described the project as a tourism-related venture that should be announced within 60-90 days. He wouldn’t reveal many details beyond the amount of initial investment and that the location being considered is “west of the waterway.”
“You’ll be seeing more stuff come out on it and some of the fruits of our labor,” he said. “It was not just a trip.”
Sometime in the next few months, a group of 30 Chinese investors will be visiting the county, he said. Some of them are committed to the tourism project, but others are considering the Grand Strand for health care, entertainment and distribution-related businesses.
“In a global economy, we are attached in a lot of ways to China,” Lazarus said. “And I believe that in the future, for our children, it’s going to be great if we have an opportunity for our children to learn Mandarin, to learn international commerce, because we’re going to have to deal with that.”
Chinese investors have become major players in the Grand Strand’s golf industry in recent years. One company, Founders Group International, owns and operates 22 local courses and last month expanded its holdings by purchasing nearly 30 acres of oceanfront property in Myrtle Beach.
Businessmen who have already invested in the Grand Strand have been talking up the area in China, Lazarus and Rhodes said.
Although this was the chairman’s first trip to China, Rhodes has visited the country eight times. The mayor hopes his latest journey signals to area residents that the city and the county can work together well.
“For so many years … you’ve heard about how the county and the city would not work together,” he said. “I hope that people realize that we are working together, that Mark and I are working together on trying to help be creative, and to bring investors into our area to create more jobs.”
The new project should create about 100 local jobs, Rhodes said. He added that Chinese investors will infuse money into redevelopment projects that wouldn’t be financed otherwise.
“You’ve got to look at areas that are sort of blighted, that need investments,” he said. “People complain about the Chinese are doing this, the Chinese are doing that. But I don’t see anybody local or in the United States that’s doing anything. They talk about it, but then they’ve got to go borrow the money to get the project going. The one thing about the Chinese: when they do a project, it’s paid for. There’s no borrowing money.”
During the local leaders’ recent travels, they toured six provinces and met with high-ranking tourism and economic development officials.
Their trip included being featured in a 25-minute television program about the Grand Strand and an interview with a Chinese newspaper.
“The name Horry County and Myrtle Beach is very significant in China,” Lazarus said. “People think it’s real communist there. It’s a very capitalistic, industrious nation right now. They’re really seeking to become westernized as much as they possibly can and the people are really seeking to come here.”