Horry County jobs agency loses 1 expansion, secures another

The Myrtle Beach Regional EDC landed one industry expansion in January but recently lost another.
The Myrtle Beach Regional EDC landed one industry expansion in January but recently lost another. sjessmore@thesunnews.com

One of the three Horry County companies that industry recruiters had expected to expand will not follow through with those plans.

Josh Kay, president of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. (EDC), confirmed Wednesday that one of the trio of projects he’d hoped to announce has been canceled, though he insists he’s still optimistic about the EDC’s recruitment potential.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of projects in the pipeline, a lot of opportunities.”

Unfortunately, one of them has been cancelled. The other is really still in the works. ... We’ve got a lot of projects in the pipeline, a lot of opportunities.

Josh Kay, president, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. (EDC)

It’s unclear which company scrapped its plans. Last month, Kay told the EDC’s Executive Committee that he expected three local companies to make announcements in 60 days about expansions tied to 150 jobs. Those positions were projected to have an average pay above $20 per hour.

Since that time, Horry County Council has twice placed discussion items about industry expansions on their agenda, then opted not to take up the subject. The EDC’s Executive Committee did discuss the three job deals during a closed-door session Wednesday morning.

After the meeting, Kay said that one of the agreements had fallen through, though he said another is still in the works. Kay identified the third firm working with the EDC as Frontier Communications, which hired 37 full-time workers in January.

Those were the first jobs created since Kay took over as CEO in November.

Kay said he included that number in the total of 150 even though the company had already filled the positions and did not receive any incentives for the expansion.

“Our staff worked hard with them,” he said.

Frontier was awarded about $450,000 in local and state incentives after the company first announced it would be hiring in Myrtle Beach in 2012.

The company announced last week that it would also hire 80 temporary employees as part of its recent expansion.

Despite losing a deal, Kay said one of the other companies he’s courting is considering hiring more workers than initially anticipated and Frontier added more positions than he projected, meaning the total number of jobs created would still be close to 150.

The EDC receives more than $1 million in public money each year to fund its operations, including incentives funding to encourage outside companies to move to the area or local businesses to expand.

Since the agency reorganized five years ago, the group has seen both successes and failures.

The first industry expansion the EDC announced was for AvCraft Technical Services, which filed for bankruptcy last year. Some companies that announced they would move to the area either abandoned those plans or saw setbacks, including layoffs.

Yet there have been positive signs. A Star Tek call center has hired more than 340 employees and has committed to a workforce of 615. BauschLinnemann employs 58.

Make sure they know Horry County exists.

Neyle Wilson, EDC board member

During Wednesday’s meeting, Kay told EDC leaders that as of March 10, his office was “actively working” 10 projects and had been following 30 other leads.

Of the 10 projects, four involve companies from outside the county and the remaining six are local expansions.

Kay said he expects visits from two companies next week, including an international ammunition manufacturer that is looking to set up U.S. operations.

EDC board member Neyle Wilson asked Kay if he had any sources with Volvo or Mercedes-Benz who could help the area land suppliers for those companies’ Lowcountry plants.

“Make sure they know Horry County exists,” Wilson said.

Charles D. Perry: 843-626-0218, @TSN_CharlesPerr