eMYRge panel

A panel comprised of entrepreneurs was featured during last week’s eMYRge social event held at Ground Zero Myrtle Beach.

Myrtle Beach should develop an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship, the chair of a technology group told city leaders.

Jason Greene gave an update on work being done by the city’s Technology Advisory Group (TAG) at last city council meeting and spoke at one of the eMYRge events held at Ground Zero Myrtle Beach.

“We now realize that the two most important things that we have to focus on now are mentors and funding to support entrepreneurs,” he said. “So we are instituting plans as we speak to achieve that.”

Greene works at Tkacz Engineering, LLC, which offers web-based software solutions for the military, government agencies and commercial organizations. The company is located in the city limits on 21st Avenue North.

He said TAG had its first meeting in November 2018 and has conducted research and worked to create recommendations.

What the committee found is many successful entrepreneurial environments in the U.S. have strong links to local industry.

Charleston, for example, has strong defense and aerospace industries.

“And the entrepreneurship around that is very strong,” Greene said.

Myrtle Beach, however, does not have an entrepreneurial domain focused on tourism, healthcare or education, the three biggest industries in the area.

The group believes if Myrtle Beach drives entrepreneurship and the ability for entrepreneurs to engage with local industry, the city will see an influx of entrepreneurs wanting to serve that industry.

“And if we do that, we believe that the talent will follow and that will help us achieve our economic diversity goals,” Greene said.

In January, Greene presented demographics suggested for the city to target: technology professionals, entrepreneurs, artisans and makers. He said TAG wanted to focus on one group that would help drive all of them, and determined it should be entrepreneurs.

“[They are] the ones that create the jobs,” he said. “They’re the ones that are going help us drive our economic diversity by bringing in the high-tech professionals, the digital artisans, the digital makers that are going help them get their product or service to market.”

It is important to assist entrepreneurs by providing resources and support, Greene said, and this can be done through the work of “community influencers.” Think a higher education institution, a chamber of commerce, nonprofit, other kind of organization, municipality, business leader or investor.

Also, the group recommends the city look to aid entrepreneurs through mentors and investment, elaborating when presenting a timeline for 2020 and 2021.

TAG suggests establishing a fund that can be used to invest in entrepreneurial efforts.

By January, the group hopes to be well into creating a mentor base and for a fund to be established.

An opportunity zone fund is one idea, which Greene said might also provide opportunities for real estate investment.

He stated roughly $1 million could make for a solid pool for entrepreneurial investment.

Looking at growing an entrepreneurial ecosystem, the group determined the epicenter should be in the city’s newly established Arts and Innovation District, where incentives can be stacked. The city’s downtown historic district (comprised of part of the downtown area in the new zoning district) was recently approved for the National Register of Historic Places.

There are plans to renovate one of the city-owned buildings in the 500 block of 9th Avenue North — one of the structures considered to be contributing to the historic district — and turn it into a co-working space for entrepreneurs, tech startups and creatives.

A flier has circulated for those interested in applying online to use the space, with rates estimated to range from $50-450 per month.

Given out at this past week’s eMYRge gathering, the handout says: “Grow your business with the power of community in an office space ready-made for creativity collaboration and innovation, surrounded by other dedicated entrepreneurs who thrive on work/life blend in the heart of Myrtle Beach.”

One can rent a private office monthly, and the co-working space is offering hot desks (which are shared) and meeting and conference space.

“The mission of eMYRge is to assist in creating economic development, entrepreneur support and diversity for our local economy, in addition to making recommendations on how to make it easier for businesses to do business in Myrtle Beach city limits,” the flier reads.

More of the eMYRge socials are planned, which lets attendees hear about the city’s plans, network and provide input.

Last Thursday’s event featured a panel consisting of entrepreneurs.

During the social, Greene also discussed plans to seek $65,000 in state grant funding to be used for investor training events. The goal is to have 10 training sessions that would provide info on angel investing from January through October next year as a way to build an entrepreneur investment community in the city.

The hopes are for phase one of the co-work space renovation to be completed by January 2020, and the building to be open by June.

In October of next year, officials want to hold its first in a series of events where entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas with the possible chance to be awarded money from the fund. They also wish to hold a 48-hour hackathon in June 2021.

At last week’s city council meeting, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told Greene her 26-year-old daughter recently relocated to Myrtle Beach from New York City to open her own business.

“I think the more young people we get back to this area and involved with your group, the more resources they’ll have for the things that they’re trying to accomplish,” she said.

Editor Janet Morgan contributed to this story.

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