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Coastal Carolina University estimates economic impact of I-73 construction

January 29, 2009

Construction of the proposed Interstate 73 could have a $4.1 billion impact on the economy of eastern South Carolina, according to a study just released by the BB&T Center for Economic and Community Development at Coastal Carolina University.

The purpose of the report, according to author Don Schunk, research economist for the University's BB&T Center, is to identify the immediate stimulative local effects of the construction of the proposed I-73, a major interstate project that will run from Michigan to Myrtle Beach.

"Interstate 73 in South Carolina has the potential to play a critical role in the economic development of the Myrtle Beach area, the Pee Dee region and the entire state," said Schunk. The construction phase of the project will boost the economy across the four-county I-73 corridor (Dillon, Marion, Marlboro and Horry) by creating more than 7,700 jobs at a time of rapidly rising unemployment and job losses. The report also indicates some of the potential long-term benefits the new interstate will provide for the area's economy.

Based on a five-year construction schedule, the study estimates that the direct cost to build South Carolina's section of I-73 is $2.4 billion. The study also factors in the "ripple effects" that occur when the construction sector makes purchases from other local industries (indirect effects) and when construction workers make purchases at local businesses (induced effects). Based on this model, the study projects the following outcomes:

• 7,718 total jobs generated (a 4.6 percent increase in total regional employment)

• $818.9 million total impact on regional economic output as a result of construction activity

• $227.8 million in regional household income generated as a result of construction activity

• A potential drop in regional unemployment from 10.6 percent to 6.1 percent

Long-term benefits of the project include: lower business costs and greater productivity that will work to benefit existing businesses as well as attract new industry to the region; and reduced congestion, increased highway safety and shortened travel times that will help the Myrtle Beach area attract more visitors and reach further into currently untapped tourist origination markets.

Ultimately, I-73 will have the potential to transform the regional economy, according to the study. While the Myrtle Beach area can benefit from increased visitor spending and a more diverse economy, the rural areas along the I-73 route may see the greatest benefit by bringing jobs to these areas that have suffered years of manufacturing losses and have persistently high unemployment rates.

For more information contact Don Schunk, research economist for the University's BB&T Center for Economic and Community Development, at 843-349-2485. The full study can be viewed at: