Brad Lofton leaving Myrtle Beach, SC

Looks like Horry County, SC stuck to its initial three-year offer, both for Lofton, and for millage to fund his development authority there. There are things the newly-renamed Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority could do to let sunshine turn Lofton’s local land legacy green.

Jason M. Rodriguez and Amanda Kelley wrote for Myrtle Beach Online yesterday, Brad Lofton leaving Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation,

Membership to the EDC increased earlier this year, but revenue from the membership decreased by nearly $60,000, impacting the organization’s marketing services and more.

Loton has had many projects succeed, and met some challenges during his time in Horry County.

Earlier this month Ohio-based Ithaca Gun Co. did not reply to a county incentive offer to bring its gun manufacturing operations and a glass company, along with 120 jobs, to Horry County — a project Lofton, and others, championed after officials recruited gun manufacturer PTR Industries to the area.

Lofton’s resignation comes as the EDC is working to figure out alternative funding since the agreement for an annual commitment of $1.3 million from the Horry County Council only goes through June 30, 2015.

So unlike the Lowndes County Commission, which gave the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority (VLCIA) 1 mil (about $3 million) of annual tax revenue with no time limit, seven years ago at their 24 July 2007 Regular Session, Horry County, SC only signed up for three years for that millage Lofton asked it for in May 2011. Of course, what the Lowndes County Commission gaveth, it could taketh back or modify. Probably we’re stuck with that $15 million balooning to $23.5 million in bonds and other debt obligations. But see below for an idea about that.

2007 was also the year VLCIA sold some land to a private party who planned to resell it at around 100% profit to private prison company CCA, that VLCIA invited into the county. The private prison contract expired 5 March 2012, so we didn’t end up paying the $9 million in incentives Lofton promised CCA in 2009. Other things could change, too.

Anyway, Gretchen found this news of Lofton’s latest move via google alert, just like she found news of his move from here to Myrtle Beach back on 10 March 2011, before his employer (VLCIA) knew. The VDT eventually asked his then-employer, who gave a glowing review just like his current one just did. The VDT also asked Lofton a question and:

Lofton wanted to clarify that he was not leaving Valdosta because of the Wiregrass Power LLC biomass facility and the controversy surrounding the project.

“My move had absolutely nothing to do with the biomass plant or any of the stresses involved with that project,” said Lofton. “We’ve announced 17 new projects since I began, with over 2,000 new jobs and almost $500 million in economic development in the area, so I’m hoping that the biomass project is not my legacy.”

Well, others may have differing opinions on that.

The VDT also suggested back then:

Parameters on the types of industry would be a good place to start, followed by decisions on how all of that tax money the industrial authority is now receiving should be spent.

The newly-renamed Valdosta-Lowndes Development Authority has changed course somewhat, although it continues to spiff up empty industrial parks made out of all that land that those bonds bought. Maybe that last is Lofton’s legacy.

Industrial parks were a fine new cutting-edge idea back in the 1950s when former governor Meldrim Thompson helped found the Industrial Authority. There could be better ideas now. As the VDT said:

They have snatched up acres and acres of property in recent years, but to date, those properties remain empty.

Hey, maybe VLCIA (or VLDA) could sell some of that land or use it as collateral to finance rooftop or utility-scale solar projects? Maybe even put some of those solar panels on that industrial park land, or around the airport? Now that would be a real legacy!