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Brunswick County’s Myrtle Beach/Wilmington tug of war going to Obama

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By Brian Slattery

Brunswick County’s U.S. legislative representatives won’t hand the county over to South Carolina without a fight.

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre will ask President Barack Obama to referee their fight with the Office of Management and Budget.

Earlier this year, the OMB, a federal agency, switched Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) after years of statistical connection to Wilmington.

MSAs identify core areas of adjacent communities that have a high degree of economic and social integration, based on the U.S. Census.

After the 2010 Census, and despite more than 60 years of association with Wilmington, the OMB moved Brunswick County to Myrtle Beach.

Brunswick County officials and state representatives worked with Hagan and McIntyre to meet with OMB staff and state the case for Brunswick County’s association with Wilmington.

They argued almost 95 percent of Brunswick County workers commute to Wilmington or work in Brunswick County, but only 5 percent commute to South Carolina.

Wilmington’s ports and airport are closest to Brunswick County’s industrial sites — Leland Industrial Park, International Logistics Park, Mid-Atlantic Industrial Logistics Center—which are 10-16 miles away from Wilmington but more than 50 miles away from Myrtle Beach.

The concern is industries looking for information about Brunswick County will now see OMB data that does not list Brunswick County in Wilmington’s MSA and will question why the county promotes itself as connected to Wilmington.

Brunswick officials also had the support of the Wilmington Chamber, the city of Wilmington and New Hanover County.

But the OMB reasserted in early June that Brunswick County will remain attached to Myrtle Beach.

So now Hagan and McIntyre have sent a letter to Obama requesting the White House reverse the decision by the OMB moving Brunswick County from Wilmington’s MSA into the Myrtle Beach MSA.

“At a time when all of us are doing everything we can to create jobs, this realignment will negatively impact economic development and job growth in North Carolina’s southeast region and cause a 29 (percent) loss in the Wilmington MSA population,” Hagan and McIntyre’s letter states.

“We simply request Brunswick County remain part of the Wilmington MSA…its communities continue to have a high degree of economic and social integration with the Wilmington urban core—much more so than (Myrtle Beach).”

The letter goes on to state the OMB only switched Brunswick County to the Myrtle Beach MSA because it is the largest urbanized area closest to the county. But Myrtle Beach is only bigger than Wilmington’s MSA by 643 people.

And the number of commuters living in Brunswick County and working in Wilmington was not considered in the decision.

“Mr. President…we respectfully request that you take into consideration the ramifications of this recent MSA designation and reverse this decision,” the letter states.

There is no timeframe for when, or if, Hagan and McIntyre will receive a response.

 

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.