By Paul Gable
“To date, Tom Rice’s job creation has been a lot of talk with little results, much like the rest of his campaign.”
Horry County Council passed final reading of the county’s FY 2013 budget Tuesday night after some last minute electioneering attempts by council chairman Tom Rice.
On a day when two of his fellow council members endorsed opponent Andre Bauer, Tom Rice was looking for at least a couple of sound bites from Tuesday night’s regular council meeting to carry forward into the last week of his campaign.
Prior to the council’s Committee of the Whole meeting two weeks ago, Rice had e-mailed a list of changes he wanted to make to the budget before third reading. During the COW meeting he received little positive response from fellow council members.
That trend continued Tuesday night. Rice was unsuccessful in changing the way the county funds employee work related cell phones. While looking for cuts in other budget areas, Rice attempted to engineer a $200,000 appropriation for Myrtle Beach’s Chapin Memorial Library. Council approved $35,000 for the library.
Rice’s final shot at a sound bite was an attempt to cut the number of vacant job positions the county is carrying on its books. There are currently 87 vacant employee positions. Rice wanted to delete 50 of those off the ledger, apparently thinking he could claim to be cutting the size of county government.
It is hard to cut the size of county government when the job positions you are cutting already have no employees filling them, but sound bites can be spun to whatever a candidate deems reality.
More importantly, if the economy rebounds and some of those positions must be filled in the future, it is much easier if they are unfilled positions rather than having to create new positions.
Speaking of creating new positions, Rice’s campaign of job creation has been as unsuccessful as his attempts to create sound bites Tuesday night.
While his claims of new jobs created in the county have increased from 260 to 300 to 350 during the campaign, the reality is AvCraft has added 10 new job positions since the county approved an incentive package for the company in December 2011.
The package includes $100,000 each from the county and the state as well as a reduction in rent of $1.25 million over the next five years that AvCraft pays to the county airport department for the rental of three hangars at Myrtle Beach International Airport.
AvCraft promised to create 150 jobs over the next five years, but we have heard that before. The company was up front in stating most of the jobs would be created, if at all, in the fourth and fifth years.
The recently announced creation of a new call center in Myrtle Beach has not yielded one paid employee at this point. It seems likely that 100 employees will be put to work by Frontier Communications, maybe most of that number by this fall. However, right now there are none drawing paychecks.
Included in the announcement of the Frontier jobs was a salary estimate of $26,000 per year for the positions. That amount is 33 percent below the average S.C. wage of $38,540 per year, a number which ranks the state 44th out of 50 in average salary.
Any paying job is better than no paying job, but a pay scale 33 percent below the state average is hardly cause for puffing out your chest and bragging about job creation.
At this point, Rice’s $1.8 million per year appropriation out of the county’s general fund to the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation has produced 10 currently paying jobs. Announcements of jobs promised in the future are just hot air until they have people working in the positions and being paid.
To date, Tom Rice’s job creation has been a lot of talk with little results, much like the rest of his campaign.