Stimulus dollars are trickling into the various counties around the state for a variety of projects. In one of the fastest growing counties in the nation, Horry County, $4.3 million in stimulus dollars is going toward improving air service in the region. Lauren Morris is the Marketing Manager for the Horry County Department of Airports. Morris says the county was ready with two significant projects when the stimulus funds were made available.”We received a significant portion of the South Carolina Aeronautics Division stimulus funds with the lion’s share going to Horry County just because our projects were really ready to go. So we had the relighting project at Grand Strand and then we’re also doing some ramp rehabilitation at Myrtle Beach International Airport.”
Morris says Myrtle Beach International Airport received $3 million for its ramp rehabilitation project, while the Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach received $1.3 million for its relighting project.
Morris says the ramp rehabilitation at Myrtle Beach International is literally laying the foundation and setting the tone for future expansion of the airport. “We’re in the planning stages for an expansion so having some of the ramp work completed goes a long way to our ultimate goal to expand our commericial passenger terminal and having the updated airfield improvements to go along with it.
Morris says despite the present state of the economy, Horry County is sustaining its momentum for economic growth as a tourist attraction as well as an attractive place for permanent residence. “Myrtle Beach is a unique market. We’re a tourist destination but were also one of the fastest growing counties in the country from a residence perspective. There is a lot of dynamism here and infrastructure and access is a significant part to it.”
The population of Horry County in 1990 was a little over 144-thousand, when the next census is taken in 2010 many observers believe the county’s population will be well over 230-thousand.
Morris says at a time when quite a few airports around the country are hurting because of the economy, Myrtle Beach International continues to show its potential for growth now and into the future. “Allegiant Air recently came into the market with two new markets Huntington, West Virginia and Allentown, Pennsylvania and Spirit Air just added a daily nonstop to Chicago as well so it’s exciting for us and we feel pretty fortunate and it’s something we continue to work on.”
Morris says air travel picks up to area during the peak tourist season. The airport now has 24 direct flight markets.