Myrtle Beach Mayor, Chamber President: Convention Center Is Good Investment

At a time when much of the nation is criticizing meetings and events—and by extension, public investment in the facilities that host them—at least two community leaders in Myrtle Beach, S.C., are defending them.

Those leaders, Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes and Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce President Brad Dean, penned a joint editorial last week for local newspaper The Sun News in which they defended a $950,000 federal earmark that will fund an expansion of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which they insist will create hundreds of jobs while also attracting more groups and events to the benefit of the local economy.

"It's appropriate that we scrutinize the costs and benefits, both short-term and long-term, of taxpayer-funded programs," Rhodes and Dean wrote. "Regrettably, the national media and a few in-state critics have unfairly sized upon a federal investment of $950,000 into the Myrtle Beach Convention Center as pork-barrel politics."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, the earmark's sponsor, has been criticized in the media for opposing President Barack Obama's $787 billion economic stimulus package while also advocating on behalf of the convention center project, which is part of the proposed federal omnibus budget. According to Rhodes and Dean, he is an unfair target.

"Graham has consistently railed against federal spending that lacks transparency and accountability," they wrote. "Instead, he has advocated for spending with full disclosure and a uniform appropriation process."

According to Rhodes and Dean, the Myrtle Beach Convention Center project meets completely Graham's disclosure requirements and will be of great economic benefit to Myrtle Beach and South Carolina.

"Today, the convention center is nearing full-capacity and expansion plans are long overdue," they wrote. "Once the expansion project is under way, it will create hundreds of jobs which we most certainly need and will help to attract even more groups and events to the Grand Strand. Ultimately, the state and federal governments will reap far more in tax revenues from this project than they will invest, providing a generous return on their investments."

Because the Myrtle Beach Convention Center hosted one of last year's three presidential debates, Rhodes and Dean argued that the media and the nation witnessed firsthand the facility's limited size.

"While we value the media's desire to draw attention to federal spending," they concluded, "we take issue with their criticism of funding for the Convention Center expansion."