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Region also at top of great places to retire

Coast ranks high for business development environment

The Mississippi Gulf Coast’s recent placement on lists for being one of the top 100 best areas for business development and one of the top 10 best places to retire mean that the word is getting out about the Coast’s popularity.

Forbes recently rated the Coast — including Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula — as number 82 on the list of best places in the U.S. to do business or advance a career. The rankings measured 294 metropolitan areas in categories that included wage and salary growth, and job growth and the number of high-tech jobs.

Also, recently Modern Maturity listed the Biloxi-Gulfport area as number six on their list of the 10 best small towns for retirement in the U.S.

“Biloxi-Gulfport is a recreationist’s paradise, with fishing, championship golf courses, access to national forests and 26 miles of white-sand beaches,” Modern Maturity said in a recent article. “The dozen or so new casinos bring big-name entertainment, as well as theaters and festivals such as Christmas on the Water, with its parade of lighted boats on the Mississippi Sound.”

Brynn Joachim, commercial development manager, Harrison County Development Commission, said the attention from being on the Modern Maturity and Forbes lists will benefit the Coast.

“The Forbes list confirms that the Gulf Coast is a very positive and supportive place to do business,” Joachim said. “Obviously the national notoriety now puts us in front of thousands of new decision-makers who have not heard of the Gulf Coast area. They are learning about the affordability of opening a business here, the favorable regulatory and political climate, and general good economic indicators such as the number of jobs created and housing starts.”

Joachim said the Forbes list comes in handy as something to show potential business prospects. Anytime they can show a third-party source saying good things about the Coast, that’s always a bonus.

The Modern Maturity list confirms what has been seen in recent years as more and more retirees, many of whom have been attracted by the casinos, settle on the Coast. The Coast now accounts for 50% of the calls received by the State of Mississippi from retirees considering relocating in the state. Joachim said some of that interest comes from retirees who have already visited the area and are now considering it as a permanent residence.

Joachim said there is a new type of senior out there who wants to be active and involved in their community. They are looking for opportunities for recreation, volunteer activities and employment.

The average retiree couple has a net worth of $300,000, and each new relocated household equates to 2.7 manufacturing jobs.

“They are very good citizens,” Joachim said. “They don’t place a burden on city services, they invest their money locally, and they spend it locally.”

Joachim said Harrison County has modeled its retirement recruitment effort after a similar program in Hattiesburg that has been quite successful. Last year Harrison County’s retirement program was re-energized with private sector fund-raising efforts and a new network of Home County Ambassadors, senior citizen volunteers who market the Coast to prospective retirees.

“They tell them this is a great place to live,” Joachim said. “That gives us a very good edge. It is very credible. It is doing what we in Mississippi do well: Southern hospitality. Ideally, friendships start up first on the phone and ultimately with face-to-face introductions. That’s probably the biggest part of recruiting retirees, making sure they have a support system, make friends, and get immersed in community. Many people choose one place to retire, and move again because the community isn’t what they thought it would be. That is what is happening a lot in Florida right now.”

The Hancock County Chamber of Commerce is also active in recruiting retirees. Executive director Carleen Moran said the chamber, the tourism commission and the cultural affairs office of the City of Bay St. Louis work to attract retirees by scheduling activities in Bay St. Louis and Hancock County that are of interest to seniors.

There is a retired senior volunteer program funded by the federal government. Active retirees volunteer at the State Welcome Center and for other activities. Moran said having a lot to do for seniors attracts and retains active retirees.

Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228)872-3457.


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