By Paul Gable
It’s two weeks til Christmas and Horry County Council is in the gift giving mood to AvCraft again.
This is an act that plays in December almost as regularly as “A Christmas Story.”
And every time it plays it provides another lesson about everything that is wrong with the concept of giving incentives to companies in the name of economic development.
What it really boils down to is corporate welfare.
This time the request from AvCraft is a relatively modest three months free rent on the hangars it rents from the county at Myrtle Beach International Airport, so AvCraft will have the money necessary to fix a fire detection system that it agreed to upgrade three years ago.
There is another new twist to this year’s gift. This time around AvCraft isn’t promising to create hundreds of new “high paying” jobs like it has promised, but never created, in past deals.
No more promises of 400-600 high paying jobs like Joe DeFeo said in December 2003 when he was taking credit for recruiting AvCraft to Horry County and trying to parlay that spiel into the Horry County Council District 3 seat.
Neither worked. AvCraft didn’t create the jobs and DeFeo lost the election, which should have given council an indication of things to come.
At least two times over the next five to six years, AvCraft requested and council approved reducing the rent amount AvCraft was paying on the hangars. The company also cut a sweetheart deal with the county so it could park, on the apron at Myrtle Beach International Airport, virtually the entire fleet of Dornier 328 airplanes in existence at the time.
Maintenance and completion of the Dornier 328 were supposedly the mainstays of AvCraft business at the time, work characterized by Horry County Council member Marion Foxworth as “pimp my ride for airplanes.
But airlines weren’t into pimping their rides. Instead they were taking the planes out of service and they wound up gathering dust and salt spray here.
Then came December 2011 and the first economic development deal Brad Lofton and the current iteration of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation presented to county council.
The deal included further reduced rent on the hangars, $100,000 each from Horry County and the state in cash incentives, the promise to refurbish and update Hangar 328 and the promise to create 150 new jobs.
Then county council chairman (now U.S. Rep for the 7th Congressional District) Tom Rice and Gov. Nikki Haley hailed the 2011 economic incentive deal with AvCraft in one of those orchestrated announcements politicians love.
“I am thankful for the company’s commitment to Horry County and proud of our economic development team for this terrific announcement.” – Rice.
“It’s another great day in South Carolina, and we are going to celebrate AvCraft’s decision to expand and create 150 new jobs in Horry County.” – Haley
Lofton is gone and the “pride” and “great day” are diminished now that reality has taken over from political b—s—.
AvCraft has not qualified for the cash incentives and they have not been touched. The company now admits the 150 jobs promised (not to mention the 400-600) will probably never happen. But, AvCraft now wants to forego paying the reduced rent for three months so some of the upgrades on Hangar 328 can be completed.
But, it’s Christmas time, a time for giving and who better than AvCraft for county council to give to. After all, it’s an old habit.
The actual gift will not be voted on until January 2015, but better late than never.