By Paul Gable
Horry County has finally made public the full extent of the cost to county taxpayers for the deal the county signed with WestJet to bring the Canadian airline to Myrtle Beach International Airport.
According to a press release from Horry County Public Information Officer Lisa Bourcier, the county expects to owe WestJet $570,000 by the end of the year.
The county entered into an incentive agreement with WestJet in order to attempt to open up new markets to the airport.
It was our original understanding, from members of council, that the county was guaranteeing WestJet against loss, in the first year of these new routes, up to $1 million.
However, according to the press release, the county actually guaranteed WestJet a profit of 15% on its operations up to $1 million. In addition, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce spent an undisclosed amount of money, from the city one-cent sales tax for tourism, promoting the new routes.
It was bad enough to consider county council felt the need to guarantee a private business against loss for bringing tourists to the area. But, guaranteeing a profit with public dollars?
Now we must pay $570,000 for the empty seats WestJet flew down here!
Only one council member, Paul Price, had the common sense to vote against this guarantee.
But, the deal was all tied in with attempting to justify the terminal expansion project at Myrtle Beach International. It did, however, make the word international in the airport’s name relevant.
On the other hand, why did we guarantee a foreign carrier a 15% profit when the city, county and the chamber all turned their backs on helping Horry County native Bob Brooks when he tried to make a success of Hooters Air?
The new terminal was built despite the fact that a majority of council members knew the passenger projections used to justify the expansion were bogus. The deal with WestJet was an attempt to make those numbers less bogus.
The county built a new airport terminal it didn’t need, then paid a foreign airline to fly here to help justify that terminal.