Opinion: Negativity, politics around AvCraft deal does more harm than good

Flickr user Anne
What message are we sending to other companies that are considering relocating to Myrtle Beach?

While it's fascinating to see local politicians use the media to play games and exercise their spite, they are also potentially risking our future more than they realize.

Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) made an announcement that both Horry County and South Carolina Department Commerce agreed to kick in a combined $200,000 to a local airplane maintenance company called AvCraft. In exchange, AvCraft agrees to grow their operations from the current 50-person operation to a 200 employee company over the next five years. If they don't meet those marks, AvCraft is supposed to pay back the investment. The money was to be used to improve a hangar that is owned by Horry County and leased to AvCraft. 

The next day, Horry County councilmen Marion Foxworth and Carl Schwartzkopf very publicly claimed to the media that they approved the deal not knowing AvCraft was the benefactor. While it's possible County Council is blindly signing blank checks, it's highly unlikely. There's only one aviation maintenance company in Horry County that fits the description of "AV2". To suggest that some Council members didn't know AvCraft was in this deal is almost arrogant to the point of insulting. Doubt was also cast over the "long timeline" given to AvCraft. In an extremely slowly recovering economy, five years to grow a company by 400%  seems downright ambitious. Regardless of the preposterity of it all, County Council is now reconsidering the deal.

Before this voluntary fiasco, the worst that could really go wrong is AvCraft could fold or not hit their performance requirements. Even if AvCraft was unable to pay back the investment, Horry County would still own a nice hangar that the state of South Carolina footed half the bill to renovate. 

But now I'm concerned the worst case scenario is we don't let this deal go through. Very little of that concern has anything to do with AvCraft, their corporate history, or their future growth.

Most of my concern is around our public image and perceived attitude. This deal is our opportunity to show potential outside prospect companies that we want them to come here. It's a chance to send a message that we are ready and serious about taking on new industry. It's also an opportunity to show the S.C. Department of Commerce we have our act together. (It's not really a secret that Columbia only takes us seriously when we cut those accommodations tax checks.) Finally, it gives a boost of confidence to our MBREDC team that they can bring a deal to the table and not get skewered over it. 

While we wait for County Council to decide if they can put the greater good above their selfish agendas, we can do our part by being more open-minded and positive about the potential of our community. It's easy to get caught up in the skepticism and the negatives. It's even easier to criticise the efforts of others without helping them find a better way. Let's turn 2012 into the year where we uplift each other to be the best that we can be. At this point, what have we got to lose? 

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