By Paul Gable
(Ed. Note – This is the second in a series of articles on the Horry County Department of Airports)
The Horry County Department of Airports is preparing to spend at least $10 million refurbishing the old passenger terminal building.
This is on top of the approximately $120 million spent in the last few years for a new terminal building.
There should be some justification for these expenses, but it’s hard to fathom what that is when looking at passenger numbers at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
According to passenger numbers at an information website of the Federal Aviation Administration, there has been almost no growth in passengers over the five year span from 2010-2014 inclusive.
See data here: ENPLANEMENTS AND DEPLANEMENTS
An even more telling span is the passenger totals from 2000-2014 inclusive from the SC Aeronautics Commission website: http://www.scaeronautics.com/ReportChartAirportEnDePlPmfYr.asp?FaaId=MYR&Year=1988&ShowData=N
The increase in passengers, from 2000-2014, averages out to below one percent per year. Hardly numbers to justify expansion of passenger terminal facilities and gates.
In comparison, Charleston International Airport, 90 miles down the road, has recently completed a $190 million terminal enhancement program.
However, in the years 2010-2014 inclusive, Charleston passengers have increased by over 50 percent total. At least Charleston can justify expanding its terminal facilities.
Myrtle Beach International can’t, unless we buy into the “if you build it, they will come” mentality sometimes expressed by Horry County Department of Airports officials.
And Charleston does not have a one percent tourism tax that generates approximately $26 million per year to spend on tourism advertising including ads specifically targeted to grow airline passenger traffic.
It’s not working!
There is no real business plan at the Horry County Department of Airports, but there certainly is a lot of taxpayer money being spent for no results. (Watch this one too, HCDA likes to brag no property tax money is used, which is true – just income tax, federal gas tax and other gov’t. fees).
In the late 1990’s, then members of Horry County Council voted to expand the number of runways at Myrtle Beach and build a new airport terminal on the west side of the airport, just because they wanted to.
There was no need for expanded passenger facilities at the time, just as there really wasn’t through the next decade.
When the west side terminal plan was finally scrapped in 2007, council ego demanded some expanded terminal facilities be built so $120 million went to the new east side terminal.
The Horry County Department of Airports, with county council approval, used FAA grant money, incurred debt through bonds and established a host of other fees to support the cost of expanded passenger facilities even though passenger numbers were not expanding.
There is no real business plan and that’s why Charleston gains passengers and Myrtle Beach doesn’t.