There are few who would question the value a great CEO can bring to a company. Face it, during the downturn of the late 70’s Lee Iacocca was instrumental in bringing back the Chrysler Corporation due to his ingenuity and economic insight. Iacocca’s knowledge and perseverance reformed and rehabilitated an entire company, saving it’s workers and an entire name brand. Throughout history there have been great CEO managers that like Iacocca, were worth their weight in gold simply because they were able to bring a product to market under great market scrutiny and pressure, and make that product sustainable.
Unfortunately the business climate changed over the past four decades. Companies began seeking more return for their investors (the people who supply working capital) by cutting costs of US production and taking advantages of programs such as NAFTA and other overseas and out of country investments which in turn gave more financial security and gain to the bottom line of the company. That was a plus for the investors, but bad for the common employee and it left a very bad taste in the mouth of the laid off American worker who barely made it to their retirement years. It’s no mystery many Baby Boomers at the front end were able to work their jobs, invest in productive pensions and 401Ks and eventually realize their dreams of retirement to great American oasis’ such as Myrtle Beach. As well, we also know those on the down side of the Boomer generation will barely make it to the finish line, if even. This realization is not lost on the average worker who currently participates in the overall work industry of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Current employment conditions for the American worker is a very hard pill to swallow especially in small towns such as Myrtle Beach where the service and tourist industry have become the main employment segment. In the last half century Myrtle Beach and the surrounding areas thrived off local manufactures such as Aberdeen and AVX and tobacco which sustained recent generations. But as we have cause to say down South, those times appear to be “gone with the wind” as these industries closed down or moved or just simply dwindled away, leaving a void between viable year round employment and literally thousands of job seekers.
Historically Horry County for the past 250 years has economically survived off three key industries; slavery, tobacco and tourism. Exactly what do these three industries have in common? These three “industries” paid low to very little to no income to the “bottom line worker”. As slavery is thankfully illegal for well over a century now and tobacco is pretty much dying a very slow death, who stands for the “bottom line worker” of the service/tourism industry in the Myrtle Beach area? It sure wasn’t the Burroughs set of companies who while providing housing for their tourist trade workers, also forced those workers to spend their pay in their “company store”. Over the last half century tourism and bottom line workers have been sorely abused in Horry County because it was and still is considered a segment of low income high school and college workers and “desperate employees”. And yes, the “company store” still exists to which they must pay into, but now in the form of taxes, fees (such as parking meters) and fines nowadays.
In an area of few and far between year long employment opportunities sustained off the back of volatile tourist seasons, recent statistics show the average Myrtle Beach employee makes only $37,854 a year. Not bad, right? Well, it’s not bad if after taxes, fees and fines you’re a single person living with a roommate or parent or in low income housing and you don’t have a car payment or school loans or you’re trying to save for your future. Otherwise bringing home approximately $13-15 an hour after taxes, you’re not going to fare well in the area for too long.
Realizing how statistics work when the AVERAGE of the Myrtle Beach employee is $18 an hour is one thing but understanding what skews that average is yet another thing and can be understood by a mathematical lesson we were taught in middle or high school. State statistics show near the bottom end base as near $19,968 or $9.60 an hour for a supermarket/retail employee. Taking that number and averaging with the income at the top earners end, which is approximately six figures, it logically brings that low income bottom average up and looks not “too” bad. Unfortunately in Myrtle Beach the average job market statistics for grocery store, retail workers and supermarket clerks is only $9.60 per hour. Even if this particular employee works a full 40 hrs per week for 52 weeks, this employee will only average approximately $19,968 a year. Their income is still $17,886 LESS than the AVERAGE Myrtle Beach income of $37,854 and STILL $19,549 LESS than the SC average of $39,517. The most sad statistic shows that it is even $29,278 BELOW the National average of $49,246. Now take note in reviewing these stats that the AVERAGE Myrtle Beach income is ALSO $1,663 LESS than the SC average and $11,392 LESS than the National average. It’s these “average” workers who keep Myrtle Beach running every single day 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. So we ask Myrtle Beach residents and governance, what’s the game here?
The truth of the matter is there are a few very HIGH earners in the Myrtle Beach area which skew the bottom statistics of the PRIMARY workers which we’ve seen on the low end as only earning approximately $19,968. On the top end some earners gross well over $400,000 and more. One such earner is Brad Dean, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. When incomes such as Dean’s are added to these literally thousands of low income wages we still come to less than the National average. We know and understand your confusion. Who would believe that a CEO of a Chamber of Commerce for a town of less than 40,000 year round residents receives a paycheck of almost TWICE that of President of the United States or even many local top CEO who works for large viable corporations that employee thousands and produce enormous returns for their investors as well as their workers? Average scale of Chamber Of Commerce Executive Directors only average $71,268 on the National average, with the top end at approximately $156,112. Yet per the website payscale.com Dean is receiving a full $243,888 ABOVE the highest statistic.
Statistically Brad Dean’s entire paycheck could support TWENTY full time low income workers a year. Or for that matter at least ten mid income productive workers. Yes, you read it right. How does this happen? How does one person’s income become more than twenty hard working peoples? How does one person earn an income of almost half a million dollars in an a city of not even 40,000 people? Well, it’s called a Tourism Development Fee that Dean was given charge over. Most interesting is that Dean’s income almost doubled within a very short period of time after this “fee via taxation” was passed on to the Chamber. Basically Dean receives a large portion of his pay from the TDF, public tax monies.
The TDF is not necessarily a “hidden” fee which the State passed years ago to “empower” the Myrtle Beach tourism industry but instead it is a very quiet accumulation of taxes and fees. The TDF is a combination of taxes and fees charged the Horry and Myrtle Beach taxpayers and their visitors and tourists and then magically “transformed” and called a “fee” when it’s dispersed to the City who in turn passes it on to the Chamber of Commerce to spend on their tourism industry. The TDF is a a delivery system of taxes NOT ONE tax paying citizen of Myrtle Beach, Horry County OR the entire State of South Carolina had a vote in. Well, excuse the error. Many SC Congressmen, Senators and Horry Council members were well aware of it, and many of them received huge incentives for the voting on and passing of the rule. City of Myrtle Beach Council members have a vote in it as it is set to be renewed this month. And yes, the Council members are tax paying citizens. Otherwise, as a resident tax paying citizen of Myrtle Beach, Horry County and the State of South Carolina there are only seven people who are given right to vote on this and in turn vote for Dean to make more than TEN TIMES the average Myrtle Beach income. Basically seven members give one man the ability to hold the entire future of not just a city, but a county and a state in the palm of his one hand, which all too readily accepts $200 million dollars.
What has Dean accomplished? As stated earlier, it’s a really good thing when a CEO produces what they are hired to produce. Horry County has many CEO’s who’ve furthered businesses and empowered employees and rejuvenated the region in general. The issues with Brad Dean and his multimillion dollar Chamber and his huge wage and other wages of those who work under him who also make six figure incomes, is that they’ve NOT produced for the area. Despite the “ballywho” of the City and the Chamber and other entities not yet discussed, NO, Myrtle Beach has not improved. Even the City worker only averages $40,760. So, despite millions of dollars voted on by the City and given to the Chamber, the average income produced by all of the TDF funding still falls at -2% of the average at this moment. Even basic high school economics teaches as money is investested results and growth should logically follow and if not, a restructure is required.
Now we beg the question, “Is Myrtle Beach better today” than it was five, ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago? Is there anything we see that the Chamber CEO had achieved to make Myrtle Beach better? Are businesses full and roads jammed (regardless of poor infrastructure) and the beach teaming with the laughter from youngsters squealing in the surf (regardless of contaminated beaches)? Do you see young lovers walking hand and hand down the boulevard (regardless of beggars and thieves)? Most probably not. Do the leaders of the City and the Chamber ever walk the streets the citizens or the tourists walk, unaccompanied by camera crew or media? Do they encounter the homeless beggars and dodge the trash and the needles? The bigger question is “Would they work for $19,968 a year to put up with it”? Has crime decreased? Has the old worn down Mom and Pop motels and businesses had an influx of so much business brought in from the $200 million TDF funding on “their behalf” that they’ve been able to rehab and update and modernize their properties? No. The sad truth is that many have had to sell out to just barely recoup the losses they’ve incurred over the past decade.
Of course Dean will trot out interesting “audited” quarterly reports on the Chamber website such as this one for the 3rd Quarter of 2017 , http://www.myrtlebeachareachamber.com/about/docs/2017-Q3-TDF-Report.pdf#search=”tdf” Pouring through those reports we find very interesting designations of funding for quite A LOT of “other” items which have no representation. ‘What’ and exactly “where” and to “who” did $4,775.21 go to in the 3rd Quarter of 2017? What exactly are these disbursements:
Digital Advertising VIDEO ADVERTISING $150,842.07
Digital Advertising EMAIL MARKETING $50,325.69
Digital Advertising SOCIAL MEDIA MARKEITNG $436,978.84
Digital Advertising OTHER $4,775.21
Yes, the Chamber gives access to their disbursements, but there is no “real” data, no dates, no contact names, no addresses, no invoice or check numbers as to exactly where your hard paid “fees” are being used. This is not a “report” but instead a list. And as you might not be aware, the Chamber is fighting to keep an external true report audited report from the public. The Chamber does not believe you have a right to know the particulars of where your “fee” monies are being spent and they are fighting any real efforts of private citizens to access this information through any Freedom of Information Act. The City of Myrtle Beach this Tuesday even became complicit by further restricting the free speech of those who wish to go before the City and question activities the City and its affiliates and or the Chamber participates in. As the vote for the TDF is to come within the next few weeks, let the time of these current restraints sink in.
So, the quandry comes after reviewing these facts that indeed we must ask: If Brad Dean is making approximately $400,000 per year to enhance the base economy of Myrtle Beach then WHY is the yearly AVERAGE income level -2% lower than the National average overall? Shouldn’t businesses be flourishing, overbooked, and turning tourists away? Wouldn’t it be logical that Mom and Pop motels would be booked to the hilt with hungry tourists willing to pay top monies for a wonderful Myrtle Beach experience instead of being closed down because of the drug pushers and prostitutes they are left with at the end of what has now become years of miniscule seasons? Shouldn’t downtown Myrtle Beach be more robust and productive than the local small inner city of Conway whose downtown and waterfront is flourishing? Or the Georgetown downtown area that despite fires and floods remains a tourist mecca?
We could almost guarantee that if the $200 million given the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber were instead put in the actual hands of the approximate 40,000 residents of the City, we would see more growth in one year than the citizens of Myrtle Beach have seen in a decade through the misuse of the Chamber. Unfortunately readers, that will be a bet you will never see taken up.
Lisa Bean Williams
Feature Writer Myrtlebeachsc.com