Sunday Blog: Wellington needs to look at Myrtle Beach, S.C. in the 1950s

Commentary by James Jordan, Sumner Newscow — Back in the 1950s the city of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was giving away beach front lots. All you had to do was build something within five years. Automobile travel was common by then, and air conditioning was catching on. 

James Jordan

Air conditioning made the hot coastal areas appealing for tourists. They were ready to take advantage of a tourism boom. A lot of people scoffed at those lots, or just never got around to getting one. Other people took the city up on it, and became very rich. Those free lots now have high rise hotels, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and are probably not for sale.

There are other coastal towns along the east coast that never really took off. They were not visionaries, or they had some excuse for why they thought it wouldn’t work there. In both cases they were right.

When opportunity comes calling, you have those that answer the door, and you have those that do not, for whatever reason.

Wellington may very well have that type of opportunity now. We all know technology is huge, and that it will continue developing. There’s no telling what will be developed eventually.

“Unmanned Aircraft Systems,” or Drones, could well be the next big thing that will take off. Bob Brock with a state agency involved in this type development, was in Wellington a couple of weeks ago. He told local government entities that Wellington is ideally situated to take advantage of a boom in this type of technology.

He said $13 billion is expected to be invested in Kansas by this industry over the next three years. As he also said, even if they are only half right, that would still be $6 billion.

Wellington already has some aircraft technology going on. Not far away is Wichita, the air capital of the world. The city is also on a major Interstate, and has railroads available, that can send products anywhere easily.

Cowley College is also building a campus in Wellington, so technical education to fill drone type jobs could also be obtained.

His point was that Wellington has the tools and is in the right situation to take advantage of this program. There is a state agency also set up to help local people take part in this new technology.

People who live in Wellington like to criticize it. Every day I hear the city is dying, or drying up and blowing away, or whatever. The thing is I have been to a lot of small towns around the country, and Wellington is not much different than any of them. The culture has changed from rural to urban. You used to need dozens of people to work a farm, and now one or two people can do that.

I’ve heard city officials, and others, say Wellington needs a niche, or something to make it special. This is true, because people have options now, and can live wherever they want. Traditional ways of thinking are not likely to create much growth in Wellington, or any other small town in America.

This could be the niche Wellington needs. It is going to need visionaries though, and people who will take action.  Brock is probably right that someone is going to make a fortune off drone technology in the very near future. Whichever town, or area, that gets itself prepared and takes action, is going to reap the rewards.

The same was true in Myrtle Beach in the 1950s.  If you were not a commercial fisherman, there was not much reason to go there, and in summer it was a very unpleasant place to be.  Some people had a vision, and realized the technology to develop it was there. Air conditioning was the missing link.

Ever heard of Georgetown, South Carolina?  It’s not too far away, and actually has prettier beaches and a nice river.

Which will Wellington be 50 years from now? It really depends on what people here now want, and what they are willing to do. Opportunity is knocking.

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