CFCA Notebook: New board of directors and guest speaker Brad Lofton

Photos by TheDigitel Myrtle Beach

December Meeting

We had a great turnout at this month’s membership meeting of the Carolina Forest Civic Association. And we were very pleased that three of our county council members, Carl Schwartzkopf, Jody Prince and Marion Foxworth, were in attendance.

The new CFCA board of directors is as follows:  Chuck Rhome, president; Cliff Abrams, vice president; Diana Lawler, secretary; Carole vanSickler, treasurer; Bo Ives, Karen Young and Brian Mills, members-at-large.

New committee chairs include Brenda Tuel, membership committee; Chet Crockett, economic committee; and Ray Winters, legal liaison.  Congratulations to the new officers and committee heads.

The board presented a plaque to former CFCA president Dennis DiSabato in recognition of his service and contributions to the Carolina Forest community.

The Families in the Forest committee is planning a roadside litter cleanup program on Saturday, March 31.  I will have more about that in the next column.

Thank you to everyone who donated to the CFCA’s Toys for Tots drive.  I took the toys to the Marine Corps Recruitment Center last week, and they were very appreciative.

Economic Development

One of the Civic Association’s top priorities is to encourage economic growth in The Forest.  On that note, we welcomed Brad Lofton, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, to come out and talk with us.

Lofton, along with Mark Williams, president of the Strategic Development Group, have established the following goals for Horry County (which currently has a 10.5% unemployment rate):

  • Create jobs
  • Increase average weekly wages, which are among the lowest in the country
  • Diversify the economy
  • Increase the tax base
  • Take a significantly more aggressive approach to economic development.

The problems they identified in the current economic environment include:

  • Little focus on diversification
  • Poor inventory of existing buildings and office space
  • Horry County lags behind other SC metro areas, despite the Grand Strand being the #1 beach destination in the U.S.
  • High crime rate in Myrtle Beach (On that last point, it must be acknowledged that the crime rate in Myrtle Beach is greatly inflated by the tourist population.)

Business development targets for the county include:

  • Service centers, back office and call centers
  • Aircraft maintenance & service businesses
  • Security systems
  • Golf carts and related products
  • Boats and boat products
  • Barge traffic related manufacturers
  • Light assembly

One of the problems in Horry County is the poor condition of roads and lack of an interstate, which would make it difficult for new industries to move their product in and out.  Therefore, the county is focusing on attracting service call centers and aircraft maintenance, and dredging the International Waterway for barge transport.

Lofton pointed out that a creation of 500 new jobs in the county would spin off 3,063 ancillary jobs.  What makes this area attractive to business & industry?  Our electricity rates are 25% below the national average.  The wage rates are 20-25% below the national average.  And our workers have an increased knowledge of customer service.

That is what Lofton and his economic development team see for Horry County as a whole.  But what do they envision for The Forest?  Preliminary ideas include:

  • Call centers/back office for medical billing & credit card processing
  • Research and development for CCU
  • Medical services
  • Software & video gaming development

But not everyone in The Forest agrees with this assessment.  Some at the meeting felt that those are not the types of businesses that would be successful here, or that we should rely on to improve our housing market.  Those residents feel that retail shops and restaurants are the key to economic development in The Forest.  This is exactly why Lofton, along with Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice, want more dialogue with the CFCA board and members.  There is still much discussion to be had regarding economic plans and strategies for Carolina Forest.

Crime in The Forest

There has been a rash of vehicle break-ins in our area.  The CFCA board of directors is scheduling a meeting with Captain Scott Rutherford from the Special Operations Division of the Horry County Police Dept. to discuss security cameras.

Please be alert, and report any suspicious activity in your neighborhood.  Don’t leave valuables in your car.  This includes a garage door opener, because that gives the thieves access to your house.  If you must keep valuables in your car, it’s not enough to keep them out of sight.  You must also leave no tell-tale signs in sight, such as docking stations or connector cables.  Be aware that SUV’s and pickups are common targets because they don’t have a trunk to hold valuables.

According to Horry County Emergency Management Director Randy Webster, a fifth county police precinct will soon be added, which will cover Carolina Forest.  They will start in a temporary facility before moving to a permanent location.  According to Councilman Foxworth, we won’t have increased police patrols in The Forest, but the new precinct will be able to provide quicker response times to police calls.

January Meetings

The next membership meeting of the CFCA is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 18, in the HTC building.  Our guest speaker will be Dr. Cynthia Elsberry, Superintendent of Horry County Schools.  We hope to see you there.

The next meeting of the CFCA board of directors is 6pm Wednesday, Jan. 11, in the Plantation Lakes clubhouse.

The next meeting of Horry County Council is 6pm Tuesday, Jan. 10.  The Council Chambers are located at 1301 2nd Ave, Conway.

The Carolina Forest Civic Association would like to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas, and a safe and Happy New Year.

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