“We’re open for business,” more than 100 told at Myrtle Beach investment forum

A woman shielded her face from the rain as she ran across Ocean Boulevard lugging a bucket of cleaning supplies. She dodged a man wearing shorts rolling luggage into the Breakers Resort.

“It’s going to affect everybody,” Lauren Clever said directing people to sit down in a trolley. “Redevelopment, or any kind of development, that comes to the area impacts everybody.”

Clever, the executive director the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, acted as a tour guide to the folks on the trolley circling Myrtle Beach’s two Opportunity Zones (OZ) during a forum targeted at investors.

The woman with the cleaning supplies and the man wearing shorts may not have the capital to be investors, Clever said, but the OZ could eventually lead to more jobs, more attractions to draw visitors and a better quality of life.

The investment capital would have to be “substantial,” she said. But the results of investing millions in Myrtle Beach would soak the city permanently rather than a fleeting Friday rain.

Congress created the zones in 2017 based on census reports of low performing areas. The idea, as proposed by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), is to spark private investment into the zones rather than tax money spent in the areas. The plan gives federal tax credits to those investing unrealized capital gains.

There are 8,700 zones in the United States.

Myrtle Beach has two of the zones that join one another. The two zones include two miles of oceanfront property from 21st Avenue North to Withers Swash. The tracts include the city’s government buildings out to U.S. 17 Bypass.

Some of the city’s landmarks included in the zones are the Family Kingdom amusement park, Pelicans ballpark and the vacant lot beside the ballpark. It includes Seaboard Commons shopping center with Target and Lowe’s. It includes tourist destinations of  Peaches Corner, Gay Dolphin, the SkyWheel and the city’s boardwalk. It also includes Broadway Street, U.S. 501 leading to the city, Main Street and the United States Post Office.

The zone includes historic areas such as the Booker T. Washington neighborhood.

“A major portion of our Opportunity Zones are located on oceanfront property or property that has a view of the Atlantic Ocean,” Mayor Brenda Bethune told the crowd gathered at the Breakers Resort for the forum. “I don’t know of any other state in the country that can say that.”

Bethune said investors should know Myrtle Beach is a magnet for investment with the oceanfront zones, the 18 million to 20 million visitors annually, the designation as the second fastest growing metropolitan area in the country and the commitment to the newly adopted downtown master plan.

Laura Crowther of Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors said the zones are a true opportunity reminding her of something she has read recently.

“‘If you build a place people want to visit, you build a place where people want to live. If you build a place where people want to live, you build a place where people want to work. If you build a place where people want to work, you build a place where businesses have to be. If you build a place where businesses have to be, you’ll build a place where people have to visit,’” she said. “That’s our community. That’s exactly how you sum up our community.”

Myrtle Beach Assistant City Manager Fox Simons said the investors are on a time crunch, though. He said an investment must be made on a planned project by the end of the year to realize all the tax credits.

In addition to the tax credits from the OZ, Simons said investors could stack about a dozen other incentives such as the Bailey Bill. The Bailey Bill is a way people can rehabilitate buildings by freezing the assessed value for 20 years. For instance, he’s explained in the past, if a person buys a property for $1 million and puts $3 million of improvements in the property, the city and county tax rate would be set at $1 million for 20 years rather than at the improved assessment.

“We’re very strong, very sound financially,” Simons said to the more than 100 people gathered at the forum. “We’re open for business. We’re business friendly.”