MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — While the Coast isn’t expected to have any major new casino
developments in the year 2000, growth continues at a rapid pace with residential and commercial
real estate developments combined with a large number of government infrastructure improvement
In Jackson County a $30-million Pascagoula Port harbor improvement project is underway that will
deepen and widen the channel, serving major industries such as the Chevron refinery, Mississippi
Phosphates and Friede Goldman Halter. Major industrial employers are continuing to implement
about $850 million in capital expansion projects.
“Those are projects that have been underway now for a better part of a year, but are still being
implemented,” said Terry Carter, president and CEO of the Jackson County Chamber of
Commerce. “It is taking time to bring them on line. With those capital expansions we hope to see
the maritime and oil industry ramp up with increased employment in the county in the year 2000.
New jobs created may reach 1,500 to 2,000.”
With oil prices at a post-World War II high, that bodes well for the major shipyard and oil
exploration supply industries in Pascagoula such as Friede Goldman Halter and Ingalls Shipbuilding.
Ingalls also has significant government shipbuilding projects underway, and will be constructing two
Carter said the key to Jackson County’s growth in the year 2000 will be completion of a large
number of new houses and apartments that are either under construction or on the drawing board.
“The construction of about 2,000 new apartments and single family homes in Jackson County will
be an economic boon to the county,” Carter said. “We hope to be able to attract a considerable
portion of the almost 9,000 employees working in the county and residing out of the county to live
in Jackson County. That would bring home about $180 million in annual payrolls.”
People spend their paychecks where they live, not where they work. So providing more housing for
workers would substantially increase the amount of money flowing through the county’s economy.
“If we are right on our assumption about what will happen with housing, this county is really going
to grow in the year 2000 and the year 2001,” Carter said. “It is a very logical point of reasoning
that when these new houses and apartments are constructed during the year 2000, we should then
begin to see an increase in the retail and commercial sectors of the economy as the residential
population base increases.”
While there are still concerns about a tight labor market in Jackson County, Carter said he expects
the unemployment rate in the year 2000 to level out at about 4%. He doesn’t see the addition of
1,500 to 2,000 job causing the unemployment rate to dip to a level that would cause great concern
about labor shortages.
In Harrison County, work continues on major highway improvement projects such as the widening
of Cowan-Loraine Road, a major east-west artery that will provide an improved hurricane
evacuation route for the Coast. While the casino building boom seen in the late 1990s has abated,
new commercial and residential construction needed to support the Coast’s rapidly growing
population continues at a rapid pace.
Construction of new retail outlets continues at the Crossroads Shopping Center at the intersection
of U.S. 49 and Interstate 10 in Gulfport, about $90 million worth of medical construction is
underway, and numerous office complexes are under construction. About 1,800 apartment units
are under construction, and there is housing activity at about 20 subdivisions across the county.
Steve Dickerson, business development coordinator for the City of Gulfport, said he believes the
year 2000 will bring good growth, although perhaps not quite as high a percentage as seen in the
past few years.
“We don’t have indication that there is going to be any let up in the growth we’ve had down here,”
Dickerson said. “We have several things in the mill for next year that we think will be good for us.”
The City of Gulfport is ready to close on purchasing the Orange Grove Utility Company for $34
million. Dickerson said a lot of water mains in the utility district serving the annexed north Gulfport
area will be upgraded to meet standards for fire protection. Water, sewage and drainage upgrades
are also planned in other areas of the city, particularly older areas of Gulfport.
A new technology park is planned in Gulfport. The city has completed a lease on the former Food
World building located on U.S. 49, and is in the process of subleasing space at the center to Xerox
and Oscar Robertson Document Handling. The park will involve businesses using technology
transfer from NASA on satellite imaging.
“These services will be available only a few places in the entire world,” Dickerson said. “We have
been talking to major national corporations about this development for some time. We feel
confident that once the first phase is completed, they will come pouring in here.”
Gulfport is also working to put together a $50-million federal courthouse project that would be
located at the site of the city’s library near U.S. 90.
In Hancock County, officials are continuing to implement a “Smart Growth” initiative funded by a
grant from the Gulf of Mexico program.
“We hope to see continued prosperity and smart growth along with the prosperity,” said Amy
Gregory, executive director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce. “The continued growth is
inevitable, and we have a lot of people in the community and elected officials who are working
towards the goal of smart growth. They want to see planned growth where we can preserve our
quality of life and the resources we have here.”
Hancock County’s Stennis International Airport could be a site of major growth in the year 2000.
Stennis has been considered as a feeder airport to relieve congestion at the New Orleans
International Airport, and has also been mentioned as a possible future site for landing of the new
generation Space Shuttle.
Stennis Airport manager Bill Cotter said they are uncertain if someone in Washington has plans to
develop Stennis into a regional airport, or if officials in Louisiana are using the threat of losing
airport business to Mississippi as a way to provoke action to improve the New Orleans Airport.
Cotter say that, thus far, no one has discussed the regional airport idea with elected officials and
citizens of Hancock County.
The airport is keeping an eye on development of the new generation Space Shuttle, and airport
requirements to serve the new shuttle.
“In our master plan currently being developed we are definitely trying to put ourselves in position to
take advantage of any opportunity out there,” Cotter said. “The Space Shuttle engines are tested in
Stennis Space Center. To be able to have the Space Shuttle come back here, land, and pull engines
off for next test, might be an advantage.”
In January the FAA will start installation of an instrument landing system at Stennis Airport. Cotter
said that once the instrument landing system is in commission by August, being an all-weather
airport will increase the amount of traffic at Stennis International.
“That’s big news for us,” he said. “Once the instrument landing system is up and running, we will
become a priority airport for a lot of people.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at email@example.com.