December 26, 2013
By Mary Perez at Sun Herald
The economy showed real signs of life in South Mississippi in 2013 -- a year that saw tourism get a makeover, businesses come down or go up and much more development on the way. All made the list of Top 10 business developments:
1. Tourism went regional as commissioners from the three Coast counties banded together on the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau board with an aim to draw more tourists to the Coast. Travel writers from across America were among their guests.
2. Major casino investment continued. Hard Rock Casino Biloxi is getting owners from Rhode Island. New hotel towers are going up at the Hard Rock and Silver Slipper casinos and hotel rooms are being remodeled at Island View, Golden Nugget and Grand Biloxi. Rotate Black goes to the state Gaming Commission on Monday for permission to build at the Gulfport Harbor.
3. New casino regulations adopted by the Gaming Commission will require more financial and creative input from developers. New casinos must have more hotel rooms, larger casino floors, and amenities that will draw people to the Coast and grow the market.
4. "Down with the old and renew or build new" was the theme of 2013 as the unfinished casino on the Biloxi beach is coming down and several Hurricane Katrina-damaged buildings were demolished. The long-closed White House hotel and White Pillars restaurant are being restored, as is Casino Magic. New hotels are being built in several cities and developer Glenn Miller proposed Mississippi Sound, an entertainment complex in North Biloxi.
5. D'Iberville's "second building boom" is in prog
ress as the city's first casino, the Scarlet Pearl, was approved and plans were announced for Gulf Coast Galleria mall and hotel. New roads are being built to handle the development.
6. More shopping and restaurants are on the way coastwide. Singing River Mall in Gautier is being re-invented with Wal-Mart as a new tenant. Wal-Mart also is scheduled to open neighborhood grocery stores in Gulfport, Biloxi, D'Iberville and Ocean Springs. Downtown Gulfport's restaurant boom continues.
7. Ports and harbors are growing and spurring economic development. The marina under construction in Bay St. Louis already is making the waterfront a hot area for restaurants. Pascagoula is moving forward with plans to create a mixed-use riverfront development and the Port of Gulfport continues to grow.
8. New training centers have opened. Ingalls Shipbuilding opened its Haley Reeves Barbour Maritime Training Academy in Jackson County as federal contracts continued to roll in despite the federal government's sequestration in 2013, and the need for skilled employees grows. The new Hospitality and Resort Management Training Center at the Jeff Davis campus of Mississippi Gulf Community College in Biloxi is designed to train students for jobs in the tourism industry.
9. Hospitals are expanding in all three counties, adding equipment and specialties. Singing River Hospital in Ocean Springs is getting a new three-story wing. Ochsner Health System has plans to take over management of Hancock Medical Center.
10. GoCoast 2020 committees created a plan for RESTORE Act money. Eighty percent of the penalties BP will pay for the Gulf oil spill will be directed back to the affected communities for eco-restoration, economic development, the seafood industry and workforce development. It isn't known how much South Mississippi will receive or when, but GoCoast 2020 provides a blueprint to best use the money.