MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Myrtle Beach city leaders are optimistic that the city in 2022 will build on the “banner year” that was 2021.
Mayor Brenda Bethune won re-election in November and begins her second term later in January.
“It’s an exciting time for the city,” Bethune said. “We have so many positive things happening.”
A record number of tourists flocked to Myrtle Beach last year, and Bethune said sustaining that momentum is key for the city’s economy in 2022 as pandemic recovery continues.
“That, in turn, helps our businesses,” Bethune said. “It helps our residents. We need our businesses to thrive.”
Councilman Gregg Smith agreed. He said tourism is part of the city’s “livelihood,” but he added that keeping the ball rolling in 2022 doesn’t necessarily mean attracting more tourists.
Both he and Bethune said organizing more events during the offseason is one way to keep momentum. They pointed to “Winter Wonderland at the Beach” as an example.
“We need to spread them out,” Smith said. “We’re full during the summer months. We need to add some people in the shoulder months during the offseason so we can spread it out to less of a roller coaster ride of business.”
While the city hopes to have a strong year with tourism, city leaders say they can’t lose sight of the needs of the local community. Smith said in 2022 he is going to put an emphasis on making the city a top public employer in the region.
Smith said doing so would make the city the best place to work as well as to live. The city of Myrtle Beach employs nearly 1,000 people full-time, with another roughly 200 people part-time. Smith said making sure the city is fully staffed so employees don’t have to work as much overtime is one way the city can become a better employer.
Smith added that decisions that he and the city council make need to be more considerate of the possible consequences for employees in 2022.
“Often, me personally, I think ‘Well how will this affect the city as a whole?’ and I haven’t thought as much about how it will affect the employees which will then affect the city as a whole,” Smith said. “So you’ve got to think about it a little bit deeper.”
Bethune said the city is currently working on a recruitment and retention survey of city employees to address staffing concerns.
Bethune said she hopes that by January of 2023, the city has gotten the wheels turning on key projects plus kept working on existing needs.
“I hope we have some really great workforce housing projects underway,” Bethune said. “That’s a huge need in this area. That we have a police force that is fully staffed with the resources they need, and I hope that we see some more things in the Arts & Innovation District really under construction and coming online.”
The city council and city staff will go on a budget retreat in late February. There, they will get a better sense of what they can afford to do during the second half of this year when the new fiscal year starts.