By Paul Gable
The Myrtle Beach Planning Commission amended the development plan for the International Technology and Aerospace Park at Myrtle Beach International Airport last week to provide for additional uses on the property.
The uses added are for medical offices and overflow parking for special events.
Much of the ITAP land was purchased from the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base Redevelopment Commission over 15 years ago with grant funds received from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Grant assurances signed by Horry County Department of Airports at the time of receipt of the funds require the land to be used for aviation purposes.
It is difficult to see how medical offices and overflow parking fit into the category of “aviation purposes”. It is conceivable that the city’s amendment places the county in violation of grant assurances given to the FAA.
However, such a violation would be just the latest in almost two decades of mistakes and wasteful spending on that piece of property by Horry County and other public agencies.
Initially, the land was intended as the site on which the, then planned, west side airport passenger terminal was to be built.
After the west side terminal project was cancelled in 2007 because of skyrocketing costs and numerous other miscalculations by county officials, county council and staff searched for a way to avoid paying back to the FAA the $5 million federal dollars spent on the land purchase.
This search led to the birth of the idea to build the international technology and aerospace park.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in 2011 complete with grandiose pronouncements by local officials, including 7th District Congressman Tom Rice (then chairman of county council), of the economic development and “5,000 jobs” the park would bring to Horry County within a “couple of years.”
In the next few years, an additional $7 million in public funds, including an additional $3.5 million grant from the FAA, was spent for basic infrastructure on the property making a total of 12 million public dollars spent on the property with nothing to show for it but broken dreams and empty promises.
The ITAP saga is a perfect example of how governments wastefully spend public dollars just because they are available.
Availability should not be the first consideration in the spending of public funds. When it is, you wind up with a $12 million parking lot.
The following was received from a Grand Strand Daily reader:
Congratulations on your article.
This is a public embarrassment that could have been predicted. ITAP was a political venture without a strategic plan.
For ITAP to be successful it requires a business plan not an economic development sales presentation. The potential clients who would benefit from the airport environment are different from the normal commercial enterprise.
This is another example of the mismanagement steps at the Myrtle Beach International airport. The general aviation airports in Horry County is also in need of a business plan. The FBO service at the satellite airports are below industry standards. The county folks know of the problem but appear incapable of solving the problem. The FBO’s are county government operated. They should be privatized and operated by professional private sector business with a focus on customer service.
They Horry County Council recently disbanded the Airport Advisory Council and are in full control of the day-to- day operation with minimal public input or participation.
There is a reason that Horry County’s wages are ranked lowest across the largest 300 counties in the US. It can be boiled down to management incompetence. Sorry.
In my judgement the airport needs an Airport Authority so it is managed as a business and remove the political element.