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    Medical jobs keep economy healthy during recession

    Murrells Inlet’s medical industry will help get it through the recession, according to economist Doug Schunk.

    Schunk, who specializes in economic development and impact, teaches at Coastal Carolina University. He spoke at Murrells Inlet 2007’s “Chowder Talk” last week and helped relieve fears about the current economic recession.

    While restaurants make up the majority of the Murrells Inlet economy, medical facilities that have grown up around Waccamaw Community Hospital keep people employed and money changing hands during the recession.

    “Looking at folks living in Murrells Inlet,” Schunk said, “most work in health care because health care continues to add jobs. So Murrells Inlet has more reliable income in the area.”

    Maxine Dawes, a new Murrells Inlet 2007 advisory board member, said she wasn’t surprised by what Schunk said.

    “We know in this economy that the medical field is one of the best employees in the area. It’s a plus for Murrells Inlet,” she said.

    The Murrells Inlet 2007 board chairman, Whitney Hills, said she’s watched the medical industry grow in the past eight years.

    “I can remember when I first moved here, there were no doctors’ offices in Murrells Inlet proper,” she said. “The impact has been fabulous. Its such a convenient thing for those of us who live in Murrells Inlet. I think health is certainly an appeal to those considering to move to the area.”

    Schunk said Murrells Inlet’s message is also reaching tourists in Horry County.

    “One thing I think Murrells Inlet has going for it is a unified voice,” Schunk said, as he tried to encourage his listeners.

    When people come to visit the Myrtle Beach area, they know to come to Murrells Inlet for good seafood, said Schunk.

    “I’ve traveled across the state and throughout the region giving hundreds of talks, but this was a tremendous treat tonight. It’s the best meal I’ve had in South Carolina,” he said, referring to the clam chowder.

    Branding Murrells Inlet as a “seafood capital” was a good decision, Schunk said, and the numbers, charts and graphs show medical industry growth in the area is also beneficial.

    Despite Schunk’s optimistic outlook, residents wanted to know when the current recession would end and what they could do to weather tough economic times.

    “Every recession is different,” Schunk told them. “They begin for different reasons, but every recession ends.”

    To end it, people have to spend money, but for people to spend money, they have to have it and feel comfortable spending it. Until they get to that point, Schunk said “it’s going to be a challenging year.”

    “We’re going to get through it,” he said. “The key right now is to focus on your market share.”

    By focusing on market share, Schunk meant focusing on a business’ particular group of customers, providing them with excellent customer service and attracting more customers.

    “It’s hard to change your market share when the economy is growing so if you can grow during a recession, you’re likely to keep that share higher [after the recession,]” he said.

    He also urged Murrells Inlet 2007 and local residents to keep an eye on their long term business goals.

    For Murrells Inlet 2007, that means focusing on marketing.

    “I think if we can develop the marketing plan for the Murrells Inlet area specifically and not just be in on Grand Strand marketing; and, just kind of do some of our own stuff we can continue to be one of the highlights of peoples’ Grand Strand vacations,” Hills said.

    Other long term goals for Murrells Inlet 2007 include a highway beautification project and a community center.

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