The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs is moving into a smaller office in an effort to cut costs. State budget cuts have hammered the consumer advocate agency, cutting its staff in half to 34 over the past couple of years, executive director Brandolyn Pinkston said. The agency will move to a state-owned office at 2221 Devine St. — which is roughly half the size of its current space. The move will help the agency – which just wrapped up a 10-day furlough over the past six months — lower its rent and avoid having to lay off more staff as consumer complaints increase in the down economy, Pinkston said. The agency, which started its move Thursday, will reopen Tuesday but will be unable to handle complaints until Wednesday. All phone and fax numbers, as well as the department’s post office box number, will remain the same. The new street mailing address is 2221 Devine St., Suite 200, Columbia, SC 29205. For more information, call (803) 734-4297 or visit scconsumer.gov.Myrtle Beach EDC seeks strategic plan
The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp., which is overhauling its operation, has hired an independent company to help identify goals and create a strategic plan, which Horry County Council members say should benefit the county but must be watched closely. The corporation, charged with luring businesses and jobs to Horry County, gets most of its budget from the county, which gave the group $200,000 this budget year — down from more than $315,000 a few years ago. Myrtle Beach gave the economic development group $15,000 this budget year. The Columbia-based company the EDC has hired, Strategic Development Group Inc., will evaluate the strengths of the area, recommend businesses that may want to locate here and suggest how the organization should be structured.Mortgage rates rise to seven-month high
The average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week to the highest level in seven months, reflecting higher yields on long-term Treasurys. Freddie Mac says the rate increased to 4.86 percent from 4.81 percent in the previous week. It hit a 40-year low of 4.17 percent last month. The average rate on the 15-year loan rose to 4.20 percent from 4.15 percent – the highest reading in six months. It fell to 3.57 percent in November, the lowest level on records since1991.