When such words as ‘bold, transformational, radical, game changing’ are used, North Myrtle Beach doesn’t exactly spring to mind. Until now, the city has been best known as the home of Vanna White, the lovely and talented letter turner on the TV game show Wheel of Fortune. But this is getting ready to change as all these words can accurately be used to describe their newly announced wind energy initiative.
First the background: as regular readers of this space know, we’re big on the wind energy possibilities for South Carolina. God has blessed us with the potential to become the Saudi Arabia of wind. Just off our coast are winds that can power shallow water windmills that can not only provide energy but can create a whole wind energy economic cluster that can drive innovation, power high tech research and create thousands of jobs for the people of our state.
And North Myrtle Beach just took a huge leapfrog jump that will move us closer to these goals. What they have done is truly astounding.
Four years ago, with virtually no notice, the North Strand Coastal Wind Team was formed to begin working on this issue and to create North Myrtle Beach as a “demonstration city in the area of alternative energy.” As reported by CleanEnergy.org, The Team Wind grew to become a broad and diverse grassroots coalition of organizations, businesses and individuals in and around North Myrtle Beach, implementing numerous innovative education and advocacy efforts to promote wind energy development.
The Team includes folks from Clemson and Coastal Carolina Universities, Grand Strand SCORE, the Jim Caudle Reef Foundation, Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, North Myrtle Beach Energy Office, North Myrtle Beach Sea Turtle Patrol, North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, Santee Cooper, Savannah River National Laboratory, SC Sea Grant Consortium and the City of North Myrtle Beach.
In mid-November, the City of North Myrtle Beach issued a proclamation officially becoming a “wind powered economic zone” with the radically audacious goal of being “able to provide the equivalent of 100 percent of its power usage from a nearby offshore wind farm in the not too distant future.”
This is a stunning example of visionary public policy leadership — it’s bold, clearly defined, with a specific goal and time-table, and a road map of how they will do it.
There are a number of aspects of this initiative that are really innovative and important as examples of what can be done in our state.
First, it’s about jobs. The development plan aims to lead to the creation of many new businesses with new stable jobs that cannot be outsourced to China. The wind is here and the economic development spin-off companies and benefits will stay right here in South Carolina. And these are quality jobs, not minimum wage seasonal jobs that have been the hallmark of the Grand Strand tourism-based economy.
Second, it creates renewable energy goals that are attractive to quality companies. All over the world, businesses are increasingly realizing that our world’s economic health is dependent on our world’s environmental health. Sustainable development is not just some tree hugging environmentalist’s latest catchphrase — it’s a viable and profitable business strategy and regions that understand this attract these quality companies.
Third, the business structure is bold and innovative. The initiative is creating a for-profit stock company that will invest in the transmission cables that will bring the power to shore from the wind farm. The stock company will seek investment from not only financial institutions but also from the City of North Myrtle Beach and the citizens themselves. Thus, with this investment cash in hand, wind farm developers will be able to move faster and more effectively to get the windmills and transmission facilities up and running quickly.
Fourth, this initiative can be an important new development to change and enhance the global perception and image of who we are as a state. In the globally connected economy and information environment of the Digital Age, branding is hugely important. This is true for companies, for colleges and universities, and for nations and states. It would be a mild understatement to say that South Carolina’s brand is suffering in the global marketplace. While we are justifiably proud of such world class assets as BMW, Boeing, Spoleto Festival, etc., most of the world still thinks of us in terms of the stereotypes of the Dukes of Hazards or, more recently, of our former Governor’s affinity for the Appalachian Trail.
This is truly a potentially transformational development in our state. It is a bold, market-based initiative that will provide good jobs, reliable energy and launch South Carolina on the road to staking a claim to being a global leader in an increasingly important economic sector of the future.
And the fact that it came from North Myrtle Beach should inspire others. All areas of our state need to look at themselves differently, find the hidden assets, build creative partnerships and most of all dream big.
This is how South Carolina can become world class and globally connected.
— Phil Noble is a businessman in Charleston and is president of the SC New Democrats, an independent group founded by former Gov. Richard Riley to bring big change and real reform to government and politics in South Carolina. He can be reached at phil@SCNewDemocrats.org email@example.com.