Growth along the Grand Strand

Area growth ranked 4th in nation by dataRegion's continuing expansion challenges planners, marketersBy Dawn Bryant, Jessica Foster and Josh HokeThe Sun News Contractor vehicles lining the streets, such as at the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, is a common sight in the Myrtle Beach area. The area's population grew 21 percent between 2000 and 2006.From 2005 to 2006, the Myrtle Beach area was the fourth-fastest-growing area in the nation, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau released today.The Metropolitan Statistical Area identified as Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach ranked 17th in the nation between 2000 and 2006, according to Census Bureau data.The news of a 21 percent population jump since 2000 will come as no big surprise to those who travel the roads, squeeze into the schools or stand in line at the area's home improvement stores and restaurants.Here's something else not likely to shock you: The boom isn't going to stop anytime soon, thanks to the region's geography, weather, quality of life and seemingly endless supply of retiring baby boomers, experts said. All of which creates a challenge for planners and marketers trying to attract visitors, residents and jobs while maintaining that environment that drew people here in the first place.The growth can mostly be attributed to the rapid influx of retirees, said Bob Becker, director of the Strom Thurmond Institute at Clemson University. Their movement has created more jobs in the service sector, bringing even more people to the area that weren't already here.And many of them aren't looking to retire in Florida, making the Carolinas one of the prime coastal destinations on the East Coast, he said. Since much of the land along Georgia's coast is wetland that cannot be developed, and much of North Carolina's coastline is protected by barrier islands, South Carolina is the next most logical option.There is a wide range of housing available to newcomers, from condos in the Grande Dunes to mobile homes.The Horry County school district expects a need for between nine and 19 new schools in the next decade to accommodate between 11,000 and 20,000 new students, according to district projections.

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