Spotlight on Myrtle Beach: Josh Kay, CEO of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation

Mollee D. Harper

Monday, February 13th, 2017

For this month's Spotlight, we sat down with President and Chief Executive Officer Josh Kay, CEcD of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation. Kay joined MBREDC in 2015 and leads the charge to match Horry County’s growth in tourism with sustainable business opportunities for its residents by recruiting new businesses and assisting existing businesses with expansion. Kay shares his mission, his challenges and many successes with us, along with his continued focus for 2017.

Kay shared, “We are a public-private partnership with around 190 members today. Our members range from government municipalities to small businesses, banks, attorneys, financial analysts, marketing professionals and any business or service provider in Horry County.”

“MBREDC is tasked by Horry County and all of our public-sector partners to serve as their economic development arm. We recruit companies to locate here and we work with existing industries to make sure their business needs are being met by the policies of our public partners in taxes, regulations and more,” he said.

Kay added, “On the recruitment side we focus on industries where we already have a strong presence in Horry County or we have the potential to provide businesses with the tools and resources to be successful. Those industries for us include: Aerospace, Advanced Manufacturing, Technology, and Corporate and Back Office operations. We recently expanded our recruitment focus to also include the Marine and Healthcare-related industries.”

The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation (MBREDC) was established with the mission to lead Horry County’s efforts in attracting, growing and retaining sustainable businesses that create jobs. Raising the profile of greater Myrtle Beach as a prime business location, MBREDC unites key parties in the public and private sectors to impact area growth with sustainable industries.

Kay explained, “We work really closely with our academic institutions on several fronts. First, we work with them to make sure the students who graduate stay in Horry County. At the same time, we work with our educational partners in developing and expanding continuing education programs that are critical to our expanding industries in order to provide training for the incumbent workforce. Specifically, we do a lot of work with the Coastal Carolina University, Horry Georgetown Technical College, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics, and the Horry County School System.”

He added, “Because of our tourism economy, we see a drop in unemployment rates in the spring and summer months that kicks back up in the fall each year. We are recruiting companies and retaining companies that are going to hire workers year-round. That’s part of our focus and part of what we were created for.”

Today the MBREDC has more than 190 active members working together to a common goal to create new jobs and keep local talent local after graduation. With an estimated unemployment rate of 6.9%, Kay and his team focus on job growth in several of South Carolina’s core industries, specifically aerospace, manufacturing and technology. Kay and MBREDC work with Coastal Carolina University and Horry Georgetown Technical College to ensure graduates have the skills needed for today’s workforce while providing infrastructure and development programs throughout Horry County to employ and retain local talent.   

Kay described, “We do track a host of economic development measures in our area. We have some internal metrics that revolve around companies that we work with, new and existing. We look at what they are investing in our economy, and how many jobs are created and retained over a five-year period.”

“We continue to meet and exceed our goals. In 2016, we had five companies that relocated or expanded in Horry County. Those five companies will create 422 full time jobs and invest a little under $7 million in investment capital in Horry County over a five-year period.”

Kay forecasted, “This year we will continue to refine our marketing efforts. We added health care related industries to our target markets and that will be a major push for us in 2017. We are also focusing on product development, which for us is working with our private and public-sector partners in identifying and improving industrial sites, industrial parks and industrial buildings so that when we recruit new businesses they have somewhere to go.”

“We go out and meet with c-level executives and we talk about how locating in Horry County will benefit their operating costs, their long-term growth, and their potential to reach new and existing markets across the Eastern seaboard. I try to get that CEO to talk with another CEO already located in Horry County. That way they can find out firsthand that what we offer is real and their opportunity to grow a more profitable business begins in Horry County,” he said.

Kay concluded, “What we offer is a low cost, pro-business environment. Businesses look at their operating costs and their product/service sales. The difference between the two is their profit. We can help them in lower operating costs by 10-20 percent allowing businesses to maintain their current price point while realizing higher profits. Advantages for businesses in Horry County also include lower cost utilities, lower overall taxes at the state and local level, and a lower cost workforce…..In Horry County, profit is not a bad word.”

Kay joined the MBREDC in November 2015 and serves as President and CEO. Most recently, Kay worked as Director of Economic Development for Santee Cooper, a state-owned water and electric utility company. He has a deep background in local government management, fundraising and economic development having served as City Manager for the City of Washington, NC and City of Clinton, SC. Kay received his BS in Political Science from Presbyterian College and his MPA in Public Administration from the University of South Carolina – Columbia. He holds his designation as a Certified Economic Developer, the “Gold Standard” for his profession.