Myrtle Beach SC’s New Nonprofit to Solve the Area’s Economic Crisis

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A new nonprofit launched by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce will help advocate for downtown improvements, among other initiatives.

JLEE@THESUNNEWS.COM

Myrtle Beach leaders worry that the region’s overreliance on the tourism industry is putting the economy on a fragile cliff.

That was the message conveyed Thursday during a gathering of more than 100 business leaders from the region. And that’s part of the reason they announced a new initiative – Partnership Grand Strand – to get businesses, nonprofits and governments across the region working better together to help grow and diversify the region. economy of Myrtle Beach.

“We are one Hurricane Katrina away from economic disaster,” Coastal Carolina University President Michael Benson said at the event. “Not being diverse is also keeping our…average salaries low, below state and national averages.”

Partnership Grand Strand, currently in its initial fundraising phase, is a non-profit organization that will be attached to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The non-profit organization will focus on four major issues: infrastructure; create more non-tourism industries and jobs; attracting, developing and retaining workers; and revitalize downtown and the Myrtle Beach waterfront.

“There is a growing risk of losing major employers and jobs in the region as other counties, states and countries also work hard to seek out the same businesses, jobs and growth opportunities as Myrtle Counties. Beach and Horry and Georgetown,” Benson said. “Demand continues to outstrip supply for skilled workers, and as the economy reopens, there are many jobs that companies cannot find talent to fill.”

The association, once fundraising is complete, will have a budget of $3 million over five years. More than half of this money, $1.6 million, has already been collected since work began 14 weeks ago. Chamber CEO Karen Riordan said the goal was to complete fundraising by May. Two business leaders, Benson and Clay Brittain, the chairman of huge hotel company Brittain Resorts, are leading the charge with fundraising.

Concrete actions for the economy of Myrtle Beach

But what exactly will the nonprofit do? Right now, Riordan said work is being done to try to revitalize the economy, but much of it is being done in silos. The objective of the association is to serve as a common thread for the whole community.

For example, one of the nonprofit’s initiatives will be to work with Coastal Carolina University and Horry-Georgetown Technical College to connect students with local employers and find them jobs immediately after graduation. graduation, Riordan said. Those jobs could be in tourism, but they could also be in finance, healthcare and manufacturing — industries that pay well and that locals have long said they want but feel like Myrtle Beach doesn’t. don’t offer. The nonprofit will have a full-time workforce manager whose job it is to make those connections between schools and employers.

Riordan said she hopes the nonprofit will be able to answer questions like these she gets from business owners all the time:

“Where am I going to find that person retiring in a year, Karen?” He’s the key person running my house, but he’s retiring. Where will I find that next new person? ” she says. “Where am I going to find a middle manager? Where will I find newbies who have graduated from Coastal but for some reason don’t know I have a job opening here? »

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LandShark Bar & Grill on the Myrtle Beach boardwalk is offering $1,000 bonuses for new hires as the Grand Strand faces a historic worker shortage. Chase Karacosta

New non-tourism jobs will become buttresses for Myrtle Beach’s economy, allowing it to stay afloat in times of disaster, Riordan said, rather than shutting down almost completely as it did at the start of the pandemic.

But Partnership Grand Strand is not looking to duplicate existing work, Riordan said. The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, for example, is already working to attract large businesses to the area. Instead, the partnership will focus on work that meets the needs of these businesses, such as attracting more workers to the area and retaining those who are already there.

Another major focus will be advocacy to improve the region’s transport infrastructure. The current lack of a major highway in the area connecting it to the interstate highway system is seen by many as preventing Myrtle Beach from attracting major industries.

The nonprofit will work to advance the construction of Interstate 73, and it will have a dedicated employee whose entire job will be to find as many grants as possible to improve the area’s roads, such as the project $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed. last fall by Congress. This infrastructure defense employee will also work with local and state governments to ensure roads in the region can meet the demands of growing locals and visitors and reduce congestion, Riordan said.

The non-profit organization will not, however, ignore tourism. Each year, at least 25% of Partnership Grand Strand’s budget will go to the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance, a non-profit organization that was recently revamped to focus on downtown beautification and finding good businesses to fill the many empty storefronts in the area.

“Why are city centers so important? Healthy downtowns in all cities and towns — they contribute an outsized contribution to tax revenue. Town centers are at the heart of cities, dignity, image and brand,” said Brittain. “Now is the time to give our downtown its own identity in itself and as a mark for the next century.”

Riordan said the impetus to create the non-profit organization came from the region having struggled for years with labor shortages, which worsened in the past year as the region recorded historic highs in visitor volume and historic lows in hotel labor capacity. She also said she’s seen other communities that use similar organizations — Partnership Gwinnet in Georgia and the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce in Colorado — have been able to make major economic progress.

The Fort Collins nonprofit has successfully advocated for the construction of a major freeway connecting that county to Denver, where the nearest major airport is located. Riordan said the Fort Collins chamber largely credits the work of his nonprofit organization with convincing government officials to make the project a reality.

“This chamber foundation is really going to be able to allow us to tackle these issues that everyone has been complaining about for so many years but never seems to think they have the time, money or energy to raise their heads. .quit their day job and actually do that job,” Riordan said.

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Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and throughout South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in journalism and political communication. He started working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he was signed to three of the state’s largest print media outlets as well as the Texas Tribune covering state politics, environment, housing and the LGBTQ+ community.

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