Final AvCraft Chapter?

By Paul Gable

The Horry County Transportation Committee voted earlier this week to write off $113,687 in unpaid rent from AvCraft Technical Services that the county will never collect anyway.

AvCraft filed for bankruptcy in March 2015 after an 11 year history of failing to make good on its promises to Horry County.

This should be the final chapter in the saga of local and state politicians, especially Horry County Council, looking at AvCraft through rose colored glasses in the name of economic development.

Since arriving to much hoopla in 2004, AvCraft was consistent in only two areas – it consistently failed to meet job goal promises and it consistently requested and received rent reductions on the three hangars at Myrtle Beach International it rented from the Horry County Department of Airports.

After eight years of failing to meet goals, Horry County Council tried one last time in January 2012 to help AvCraft save itself with the recommendation of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

One of the main items in that agreement was a $1.25 million reduction in rent on the county hangars over a five year period. This came after three earlier rent reductions, agreed to by the county, failed to make AvCraft profitable.

The following four comments made after the 2012 incentive package was approved demonstrate how far from reality politicians and their economic development arms exist from reality:

“I am thankful for the company’s commitment to Horry County and proud of our economic development team for this terrific announcement.” – Rep. Tom 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.” – Gov. Nikki Haley.

“AvCraft is a tremendous asset to our community, and this project is just the beginning for aviation-related businesses locating and expanding in the Myrtle Beach region.” – Doug Wendel, MBREDC board chairman at the time.

“AvCraft’s decision is going to give us momentum and additional credibility as an aviation location.” –Brad Lofton, MBREDC CEO at the time.

A little checking by any of the above four individuals would have brought to light that just before the 2012 incentive package was approved by council, AvCraft had sold and leased back virtually all of its tooling and other equipment in an effort to raise some much needed cash.

This was hardly a company that could be called “a tremendous asset to our community.”

When AvCraft first arrived in Horry County in 2004, it’s business plan was described by former council member Marion Foxworth as “pimp my ride for airplanes. Current council chairman Mark Lazarus criticized the Foxworth comment by saying any opposition to AvCraft was purely political.

Looks like Foxworth was correct.

But, as a veteran national politician told me at the time, “Politicians use these announcements to gain unearned media attention. They are willing to give away the farm to claim credit for creating jobs and, often, giving money to business results in getting political contributions in return.”

Every time I hear the words economic development from a politician, I know the public purse is about to be opened again for no good reason.

We can only hope Horry County Council has learned a lesson about due diligence before it agrees to economic development packages, but I don’t have much hope.


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