Top Secret Economic Development

Top Secret Economic Development in Horry County

Economic Development Secret Project – a Major Coup?

By Paul Gable

 

The secrecy surrounding a project of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, which will soon be up for second reading by county council on an ordinance to issue $8 million in public debt for the project, may be very good news for county residents.

I have had several conversations recently with local Republican activist, and one of the founders of the South Strand Republican Club, John Bonsignor about possibilities for the project. Bonsignor said he was asked, by EDC board member and former county Republican Party chairman Robert Rabon, to help promote passage of the ordinance by council members.

Even though he was given few details of the project, Bonsignor agreed to do so. Bonsignor did mention to me that he was of the understanding the total incentive package for the project totaled approximately $30 million for a 1,000 job call center. Bonsignor said he would like to get more details to have confidence in the project.

Pondering those conversations, it seems to me Bonsignor may have misunderstood what few details he has heard about the project. Surely council wouldn’t be considering up to $30 million in incentives for a 1,000 job call center.

Council recently approved a $150,000 incentive package for a 100 job call center for Frontier Communications. Incentives totaling approximately $1,500 per job for call center recruitment seem to be about right.

Even the $8 million debt package council is currently voting on for the mystery project must be for something other than a call center. If Bonsignor is correct that 1,000 jobs are involved, it would amount to $8,000 per job. If he is further correct that the total incentive package is closer to $30 million, it would bring the incentive package to an astounding $30,000 per job, or 20 times the amount of incentives per job given to Frontier. Surely such incentive levels have to be for something other than call center jobs that pay between minimum wage and less than $15 per hour.

According to Bonsignor, EDC board chairman and former Burroughs and Chapin CEO Doug Wendel told council that details of the project would not be made public for perhaps months, at least until the debt is approved and the governor can come down for the ground breaking or ribbon cutting.

I find it hard to believe that this level of incentive investment, extended secrecy and taxpayer supported debt would be part of a package for a simple call center. You don’t bring the governor to the ground breaking of a low wage call center. You bring her to Boeing, Honda, Johnson Controls or Bridgestone Tire announcements that bring the promise of thousands of high paying jobs over an extended number of years.

Those types of manufacturing jobs bring long term job stability to employees as well as benefits such as health insurance, pensions and promotion opportunities. These stable job prospects bring the opportunity for home purchases and education for children. This would be exactly the type of economic development initiative that Horry County has long sought and would be a ‘home run’ for EDC.

Hopefully the secret project is some type of manufacturing facility with such long term promise.  It may be the one we have waited for EDC to produce since its funding was increased by 450 percent in 2011 to $1.8 million per year from the county budget.

Maybe EDC CEO Brad Lofton is every bit as good as Wendel and council chairman Tom Rice promised when he was hired last year. Maybe Lofton has interested someone on the level of Warren Buffett to bring one of his venture capital projects to the area. Maybe spin off opportunities from Boeing or Honda, that have been teased, are about to occur.  Perhaps Wendel’s promise of increased results by the EDC with the increased funding is finally about to be realized.

The level of incentives being talked about and voted on and the level of secrecy surrounding the project would seem to point in that direction. The call center rumors are probably disinformation to keep the real project details secret until a grand announcement can be made. Members of county council have been exceptionally mum on this project. Perhaps they know the real story and know this grand announcement will make us all feel proud and confident about job prospects for Horry County.

I have been critical of EDC results to date, but, if it is bringing good manufacturing jobs to Horry County, even if the incentives are costly, I will congratulate it.

 

8 Comments

  1. This sounds great. Myrtle Beach needs good jobs so people can feel secure in their lives. Can’t wait to hear what it is.

  2. Think you’re drinking the kool aid on this one Gable. These guys aint that good. youll see.

  3. Starting to believe in Brad

    This has to be a Boeing spinoff with this kind of secrecy, number of jobs and amount of investment. I agree Paul, gotta be more than a simple call center.

  4. Is this going to ITAP at the airport? I could go for a $25 per hr job with a Boeing supplier that we have been hearing could be locating there.

  5. Hoping for Real Jobs

    Not sure how true, but word at breakfast place in Garden City is that this is a seat manufacturer to supply Boeing. Supposed to be decent pay, great benefits and lots of job security due to long term contract. I hope this is the case, my son in law has been out of work for two years and the only thing he can find is telemarketer for time share working on commission. Had we known how slim the job market was here we may have never left Ohio.

  6. I will believe it when it is announced and they start hiring. As a native of Murrells Inlet, those types of jobs just never come here. The big fish in the tourism business are too afraid of losing their labor to allow them in. Look who’s calling the shots at EDC, enough said. If you don’t get your expectations up, you won’t be disappointed.

  7. john e Bonsignor

    There is no question Horry County is hurting for jobs that pays a decent wage. I wrote an email that I distributed to a wide range of people on my list in support of jobs. I went to the County Council memting as reported above to learn more of the project. Robert Rabon a member of the EDB did not ask me to lobby any members of the Council to vote aye on the project, he only asked me to attend, which I was planning on doing. At the meeting I never had an opportunity to speak to Doug Wendel, nor did I hear him discuss the project as I was not inside the executive session…My take on this 1,000 jobs is if it is worthy and will bring in needed revenus for a host of necessary public and County needs we should go for it, should there be a question of a risk we must be cautious on the deal.My main concern is transparency let the people know what is going on, especially when it is the taxpayers money….

  8. John, you are absolutely right and I was not criticizing you at all. Just thinking about it and it seems it should be more than jjust the call center type of jobs that you mentioned to me. Whatever it is, we can only hope that the incentives justify the end result.

Leave a Comment