Is Myrtle Beach poised to become America’s next great tech city? It’s possible, leaders say.
Picture a Myrtle Beach with trash bins that automatically alert crews when they’re full, or a street lamp that doubles as a phone charger and wireless internet hub.
A smarter city that could help pull in new investment, spur big ideas and put the tourism mecca on the front lines of a futuristic economy.
“It’s not about watching people’s every move. It’s about making sure we can give them that better quality of life that we want them to see,” Howard Waldie IV, the city’s new chief innovation officer, told the council at a Jan. 31 workshop.
For more than a year, city leaders and a small group of volunteers have worked to build up Myrtle Beach’s tech sector and entrepreneurial landscape, pinned on the launch of HTC Hub, a 9th Avenue coworking space already set to expand just a year after opening.
“I think, finally, we have the right team in place and the right togetherness. Everybody’s working on this. There’s so many different initiatives here all happening at the same time, and it just makes perfect sense to go after something like becoming a smart city,” Barb Royal, the Hub’s executive director said.
The Sun News is among the organizations that rent space in the 5,000-square-foot building.
Royal said the site is preparing to double in size — the latest visible sign of growing interest in the city’s emerging tech sector.
“It’s really for thought-based workers who are in the tech field. Those are the people that can feed a start-up, that’s the community we’re trying to create,” Royal said.
One hope is that some of the Hub’s larger footprint can become a “living lab” concept, feeding back into the city’s ability to use cutting-edge inventions and equipment while fostering new companies.
“Imagine us being able to offer a tech company the opportunity to come into downtown Myrtle Beach, build that smart pole, test that smart pole here in our city and then give it to us at a pretty discounted price, and then increase our local GDP as they sell that product across the nation,” Waldie said Jan. 31. “If we are quick enough, we have an opportunity to be part of that lead-in to that market.”
In November, the city received an assessment of its tech economy from the Center on Rural Innovation, a Vermont-based nonprofit.
“At this stage, we can confidently recommend that Myrtle Beach has the core capacity and assets needed to develop and successfully implement a tech economy ecosystem strategy,” analysts wrote.