Haley touts I-73 project as way to generate jobs

(Myrtle Beach) Sun-NewsOctober 22, 2013 

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Bringing Interstate 73 to the Grand Strand would help increase business opportunities and jobs, Gov. Nikki Haley told constituents in Myrtle Beach on Monday.

Several new companies have announced plans to come to Horry County this year, bringing hundreds of jobs. But Haley told members of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors on Monday afternoon that it's difficult to continue to attract corporations to the area without an interstate.

Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes said he welcomes the support Haley puts behind bringing the interstate to Myrtle Beach.

"It definitely is a major factor in opening up the opportunities to have different types of industry here in Horry County," Rhodes said. "But it will also help other counties like Marion and Dillon as well."

The proposed interstate, which would run from Michigan to Myrtle Beach, was one of several topics constituents discussed with Haley during one-on-one meetings held at the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday, as well as the need for jobs, trouble with illegal immigration, workers compensation and other things.

The interstate has been discussed for more than a decade, and there's been debate over the route and whether upgrading existing roads would be a better option.

"Hopefully it comes to fruition," Rhodes said.

Connie Starner of Murrells Inlet said she told Haley that many people don't even want to vacation on the Grand Strand because they don't want to drive here on the smaller roads.

"We really need an interstate," she said.

Starner said Haley told her that while she supports the construction of I-73, funding the project is something that needs to be done by the U.S. Congress, something she also told those at the Realtors conference about the suggestion of constructing a connector with Interstate 74 in North Carolina.

Starner was one of about six constituents who scored one-on-one meetings with the governor Monday in Myrtle Beach. Those interested in sharing concerns with Haley had to schedule appointments Friday at 9 a.m. and the spots were filled within 10 minutes, according to callers who weren't able to get an appointment with Haley but showed up to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for a chance to share a word with the governor.

"Everybody's not able to come to Columbia, so we come to them," Haley said. "We talk with them about whatever issues they have and try to give them answers and work on their problems. There are a few things we'll follow up on and get back to them."

Starner, who said she is a strong supporter of Haley, said it was nice to be able to speak to Haley face-to-face after following and commenting on the governor's Facebook page.

"She's a very accessible governor," Starner said. "A lot of politicians don't want to meet one-on-one with their constituents. I appreciate that about her."

Staff writer Steve Jones contributed to this report.

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