Myrtle Beach area second fastest-growing region in U.S.

With a one-year population increase of more than 12,000 people, the Myrtle Beach metropolitan statistical area ranked as the second fastest-growing in the nation from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014.

The U.S. Census Bureau, which released the 2014 population estimates Thursday, said the metro area had 417,668 residents, up nearly 41,000 people since the 2010 census.

The MSA includes Horry County and, for the first time, Brunswick County, N.C., which boosted the overall number by 118,836.

Georgetown County, which is not in a federally-defined MSA, saw its population rise to 60,693 in the new estimate.

The Beaufort MSA, including Hilton Head Island, was the 13th fastest growing with a 2.4 percent population increase from 2013 to 2014, the Census Bureau reported. The Charleston MSA, the only other S.C. area in the top 20, came in at No. 17 with a 2.2 percent growth rate.

The growth in Horry County alone, about 9,300 new residents in the year, approached the boom years of 2005 to 2007 when Census numbers show more than 10,000 new residents a year.

What this means to you:

Roads: It’s almost impossible to build roads fast enough to keep up with the kind of growth that Horry County is having, said Mike Barbee, regional project engineer for SC Department of Transportation. The state doesn’t have the money, so local road-building initiatives such Horry’s RIDE program become essential. Barbee said Horry raises more money to build roads each year than any county in the state. He said drivers can expect some type road construction, such as that now along U.S. 707 from Socastee to Murrells Inlet, in their motoring future. Roads, though, are not make-or-break to future growth. “With the quality of life Horry County has to offer,” he said, “people are coming anyway.”


Schools: “It’s hard to keep up,” said Joe DeFeo, Horry County Schools board chairman. He said the system will begin a $160 million, five-school construction project this year and that all should be complete in 2017. But with growth stats such as those from 2013 to 2014, he’s thinking the system will need two more new schools ready for incoming students in 2021 or 2022. The first wave will be built with some excess capacity, he said, which should help absorb the growth until the second group comes on line. The first wave of new schools will accommodate the fast-growing areas of Carolina Forest, Forestbrook and St. James. He believes Carolina Forest will need a third elementary school in the second wave of construction.

Business: All types of businesses will find opportunities from the growth that’s coming to the Grand Strand, said Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. Airlines and franchisors, in particular, will definitely take note of the MSA’s surge in residents. Retail businesses have already taken note of the growth, as evidenced by the new Coastal North Town Center in North Myrtle Beach, a soon-to-open Gander Mountain along U.S. 501 at Carolina Forest and a Carolina Pottery that will open in the old Kmart along Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.


Quality of life: The growth, said Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, challenges area leaders to figure out how to expand performing arts so that theater and concert offerings meet the expectations of new residents. The look of the city is also important, Rhodes said, but he believes the Community Appearance Board does a good job of guarding it. Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said the county requires open space for new developments and added that the growth could lead to a plan to allow recreation facilities to keep pace.


What you say

Bill Howard, Carolina Forest

About the roads: “We’re retired. I’m in no hurry to go anywhere.”


John Hrybiniak, Carolina Forest

About the quality of life: “They need a casino and more for seniors to do. Where do you fish? Bus trips? Do something with these old people.”


Michelle Travisano, Carolina Forest

About the overall picture: “I don’t think it’s growing as fast as people think it is. Everything’s being built accordingly. The roads, however, need to be built up if they do want to see more people.”


Will this kind of growth continue?

“Unlike the short-term boom in relocation and construction that some regions occasionally see, this growth appears to be a sustained pace of growth that shows no signs of letting up,” said Brad Dean, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. He said that for several years the chamber had gotten about 10,000 annual inquiries about possible relocation. After putting out an ad with a relocation/investment message, the number increased to 125,000 inquiries in the last 12 months.

The 20 fastest-growing metro areas, July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014

1. The Villages, Fla., 5.4 percent

2. Myrtle Beach, 3.2 percent

3. Austin, Texas, 3 percent

4. Odessa, Texas, 2.9 percent

5. St. George, Utah, 2.9 percent

6. Fort Myers, Fla., 2.7 percent

7. Bend, Ore., 2.7 percent

8. Greeley, Colo., 2.6 percent

9. Midland, Texas, 2.6 percent

10. Naples, Fla., 2.5 percent

11. Houston, Texas, 2.5 percent

12. Fort Collins, Colo., 2.4 percent

13. Beaufort, 2.4 percent

14.Daphne, Ala., 2.4 percent

15. Raleigh, N.C., 2.3 percent

16. Orlando, Fla., 2.2 percent

17. Charleston, 2.2 percent

18. Sarasota, Fla., 2.2 percent

19. Panama City, Fla., 2.2 percent

20. Boise City, Idaho, 2.1 percent

Source | U.S. Census Bureau