U.S. Rep. Tom Rice said Thursday collaboration amongst regional and national assets is a key to helping foster job creation in a district that is consistently above state unemployment rates.

Rice, R-S.C., held a forum with roughly 50 economic leaders and regional stakeholders at the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology at Florence-Darlington Technical College. They listened to Rice talk of his interactions with members of Congress and officials abroad about economic competition and the additional resources South Carolina and District 7 need to remain competitive.

“The country needs to change its attitude,” Rice said. “We have counties competing for jobs across the nation, we have states, and South Carolina is doing a really good job of competing for jobs, countries are competing for jobs as well. Most industrialized countries have organized departments whose job it is is to figure out how to make their countries more competitive. The United States has nothing like that.”

He said the collaboration is there at the local and state levels, historically, but it has not been duplicated at the national level.

“What we haven’t had is federal attention,” Rice said. “So I’m trying to add that fourth layer of collaboration. That’s one thing I can do.”

Jeff McKay, executive director of the North Eastern Strategic Alliance, agreed with Rice’s motives and said that being with other interested groups in one room helps the groups understand one another and utilize resources that could eventually become future projects for the area and state.

“In this region there’s a tremendous need for it (collaboration). We are in some cases competing with the rest of the state, but truly in the business world, we’re competing with the world,” McKay said. “Because a company today, they can locate anywhere in the world that they want, so we’re a region of several hundred thousand strong competing with the rest of the millions in the world, and we better utilize our resources, our talents and our skills if we bring it all to the table together.”

While McKay said that NESA — a nine county economic development group that works to recruit and foster economic development — has reliable resources, the public acknowledgement of Rice’s desire to help and resources from University of South Carolina’s Office of Economic Engagement USC OEE), only strengthen NESA’s ability to attract talent to the area.

“I’ll tell you the companies, that’s what they look for,” McKay said. “They’re looking for a community that can come together and work together to make them successful, and I think we’ve proven that.”

Ann Marie Stieritz, deputy executive director of USC OEE, said the efforts of the newly formed department at USC will help developers and companies utilize university resources to further foster and attract development.

“We’re that single point of contact with customized solutions and then providing access to resources at university,” Steritz said. “So this means we look at and say is it a research question? Is it a workforce question? Is it business consulting expertise?’ ... We have so many of those resources. It’s our responsibility to be able to navigate that on behalf of the company and make it a priority.”

GAVIN JACKSON, Morning News

North Myrtle Beach joins New York, NY, Princeton, NJ, Austin, TX and 47 other communities recognized as having the strongest online presence in their state.

This week Google announced that North Myrtle Beach has been named the 2013 eCity of South Carolina. The eCity Awards recognize the strongest online business community in each state - the digital capitals of America. These cities’ businesses are embracing the web to find new customers, connect with existing clients and fuel their local economies.

North Myrtle Beach has had a digital leg up since 2008 when Verizon finished a complete build out of fiber optics to all businesses and residents east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

“Our ‘e-City Awards’ recognize the new ‘digital capitals’ of America,” said Scott Levitan, Google’s director of small-business engagement. “We’re proud to recognize this growing entrepreneurial-spirit—and the role that it plays in both creating jobs and sustaining local economies. With 97-percent of Internet-users looking for products and services online, it’s clear that success is about being connected.”

“North Myrtle Beach businesses do not rest on their laurels or past gains,” said Mayor Marilyn Hatley. “When our many diverse businesses discover new ways to communicate with new and existing customer bases, they do not give it lip service. They proactively embrace it and employ it to the fullest.”

Representative Tom Rice represents North Myrtle Beach in Congress and said he’s proud that Google is honoring its businesses. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our nation’s economy and for more than 17 years they have generated 65 percent of net new jobs,” said Congressman Rice.   “Our district’s small businesses have utilized new technology to make them more competitive locally and nationally.  As a member of the House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, I will continue to advocate for our small businesses so they can afford to expand and hire more hardworking South Carolinians.”

Google worked with an independent research firm IPSOS to analyze the online strength of local small businesses in cities in all fifty states and North Myrtle Beach  is among the ranks of America’s leading cities in the digital economy.

Google research shows that over the next three years, businesses that make use of the web are expected to grow 40% faster and are twice as likely to create jobs. With small businesses creating two-thirds of all new jobs, the potential impact of getting these businesses online is enormous. Google hopes that these “digital capitals” will become an inspiration to other areas—throughout the nation—of what can be accomplished by spearheading business development on the Web.

In South Carolina, Google research concluded in 2012 that 97% of South Carolina internet users look on line for products and services and 96% of smartphone users research a product or service before they purchase.  The same study concluded that Google helped provide $619 million in economic activity in South Carolina with 20,000 business and non-profits using their advertising program called AdSense.  Google also highlighted that they gave grants that year of $352,000 in free advertising for South Carolina non-profits.

United States Representative Tom Rice spoke at the Conway Recreation Center Tuesday afternoon, discussing a variety of issues from health care, government regulation, oil and infrastructure.

Rice explained that his top priority when it comes to infrastructure is getting Interstate 73 built, saying that he expects it to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity for all the areas that it would run through.

Three of those counties include Marion County and Marlboro County, each with 15 percent unemployment and Dillon County with 14 percent unemployment.

"This road would travel through all three of those very, very impoverished areas and create a lot more room for economic development," Rice explained.

Rice added that when companies are looking to relocate, a close proximity to an Interstate is a top priority.

Some Conway residents present at Rice's speech say they hope it does more than that. Larry Moore says the Grand Strand needs a better evacuation route.

"Particularly in an emergency, we got to get them out and this would help," Moore explained.

Not everyone feels I-73 will be a good thing. Some environmental groups say it will destroy wetlands.

By Marc Liverman

Congressman Tom Rice, the U.S. representative for South Carolina's 7th congressional district, met with local hospital officials at Georgetown Memorial Hospital on Monday.
With him was Congressman Tom Price, a leader in the U.S. House of Representatives who serves Georgia’s 6th congressional district.
Georgetown was one of several stops the two congressmen made before attending a symposium about health care in Florence, S.C.
“In our area, Georgetown Hospital System is our third largest industry,” Rice said. “I am doing anything I can to help improve health care in my district.”
They visited the emergency department and the orthopedics floor as part of their tour.
Gayle Resetar, COO of the Georgetown Hospital System, and other board members and staff welcomed Rice and Price and shared the hospital’s accomplishments and concerns with them.
CEO Bruce Bailey was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.
Resetar told the congressmen that the hospital system has doubled in the last 10 years, they have opened another hospital and have added outpatient locations — including imaging, cancer treatment and rehabilitation — from North Myrtle Beach to Andrews.
Resetar said one of the hospital system’s main concerns is covering the cost of uninsured patients, especially after South Carolina declined Medicaid expansion as part of “Obamacare.”
The expansion would have allowed the “working poor” to qualify for Medicaid, which was designed to ease the burden on those citizens and hospitals.
Resetar said hospitals are now working to reduce the amount of time patients stay in the hospital, delaying equipment replacement, and are looking at reducing services due to budget restraints.
“Over time I think that will impact the quality of health care here,” she said.
Another concern Resetar mentioned was how the hospital system will pay for phase two of its renovation of Georgetown Memorial Hospital.
“We are $4 million short of the one-and-a-half percent margin to fund the second phase of construction,” she said. “We are reviewing all the numbers for our next budget cycle.”
Price said he recently introduced the Empowering Patients First Act (H.R. 2300), which would permanently repeal President Obama’s health care law and replace it with “patient-centered solutions.”
“This alternative to Obamacare would allow patients and doctors to make the important decisions about health care, not Washington,” Price said.
He previously sponsored the Empowering Patients First Act in the 111th and 112th Congresses as H.R. 3400 and H.R. 3000, respectively.
Price serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, as well as the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
For nearly 20 years, Price worked in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon.

By Clayton Stairs
cstairs@gtowntimes.com

FLORENCE,SC (WMBF) - Congressman Tom Rice visited Florence's new nursing facility to discuss health policies and how he intends to help Francis Marion University achieve its goals.

"HealthCare is so important to obviously the residents of the districts, but it's also a huge industry in the district. Jobs…jobs…jobs. We need to do whatever we can to make sure the tradition of quality health care in this region continues," said Congressman Rice.

During his visit on Monday, July 29, Rice was joined by doctor and fellow Congressman Tom Price (R-GA 6th District since 2005). Price is also an expert on GOP health policy.

"You got to get folks covered you can't have 30 million…50 million whatever the number is walking around without health insurance," said Congressman Price.

Right now, healthcare is one of the biggest issues in the country and one of the biggest industries in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand.

Congressman Price introduced some of the ways he plans to better America's health care system. Congressman Tom Rice is supporting a bill Price is working on that is aimed at doing three things:

  1. Solving some of the challenges surrounding insurance
  2. Getting everyone covered their way without the Federal Government being involved
  3. Helping to reduce excessive spending that comes along with medical malpractice

Congressman Rice said the goal of today was to reinforce how important healthcare is to this district.

The duo planned to tour the facility after a visit to Georgetown Memorial Hospital Monday morning.

"During my tour of Georgetown Memorial Hospital today my colleague Rep. Tom Price, an orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, told the hospital administrators if Washington concentrates on the patient, we get the right solution. If Washington focus on the dollar, we get the wrong solution,"Rep. Rice posted on his Facebook page.

"I brought, in my opinion, one of the leading health policy experts in the House to the 7th District today because I recognize that our health care industry is important. I care about our health professionals and acknowledge their needs. I wanted each of them to have the opportunity to ask their questions and let their voices be heard. As always, I am here for you and will continue to make sure Washington knows about the needs of the 7th District," Rice insisted.