Horry County Signs Deal with AvCraft

Horry County Council finalized a lease agreement Tuesday with AvCraft, the aviation company wooed to the airport in 2003 with a public incentives package that promised low rent and a $750,000 reimbursement for hangar improvements.

The nine-year lease agreement will give the troubled company more security to invest and expand staff at its Myrtle Beach International Airport facility, AvCraft owner Ben Bartel said.

Councilman Marion Foxworth, the lone dissenter on the council, said AvCraft appears to be in bad shape and that signing a long-term business deal might not be a smart move by the county.

AvCraft's business operations are hitting turbulence: Its German production plant is in bankruptcy, the company announced it will not meet job-creation deadlines at its Myrtle Beach facility this summer, and Foxworth said its Virginia headquarters closed.

The Virginia office phone number for AvCraft was disconnected Tuesday.

Bartel said earlier this month that the Myrtle Beach facility is strong despite AvCraft's problems elsewhere.

"We have a little golden nugget at this seaside town called Myrtle Beach, and I want to preserve that value."

The company will miss a June deadline to create 80 jobs because it was operating on a month-to-month lease and investing more money in expansion would be too risky without a long-term agreement, Bartel said.