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Nonprofit established to administer BP oil spill grant

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — Gov. Haley Barbour announced BP has agreed to provide $16 million in funds to help the recovery of the Mississippi Gulf Coast tourism and hospitality industries from economic damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The governor indicated a written agreement is pending.

BP gave state and local entities $18 million to promote tourism on the Gulf Coast in 2010.

In an effort to maximize output and local stakeholder participation coastwide, BP and the state agreed the funds will be spent under the oversight of a 501(c)6, which will be governed by a regional board of directors with expertise in the tourism industry in Jackson, Harrison and Hancock counties. This provides local Coast control of the funding while guaranteeing full representation from all three Coast counties and a singular regional message.

The 501(c)6 is the Mississippi Coast Regional Tourism Partnership, organized by the Gulf Coast Business Council.

“The Business Council has facilitated a group of over 70 volunteers who have worked through a four-year period to study the best possible method of significantly growing the Coast tourism industry,” said John Hairston, co-chair of the Council’s Premier Destination Committee. “The Tourism Partnership was created for the purpose of providing a private/public partnership to promote tourism, commonly referred to as a destination marketing organization. This initial organization will be used to provide regional, experienced oversight of the $16-million tourism grant. We hope and expect the Tourism Partnership will eventually combine with the Harrison County Tourism Commission to form a single regional, well-funded partnership. That decision would be made by the Tourism Partnership board of directors and county supervisors.”

At the governor’s suggestion, each entity represented on the Gulf Coast Tourism Steering Committee, which managed the $15-million state grant from BP in 2010, also will be represented on the Tourism Partnership board to ensure continuity with that successful effort. The Business Council will partner with the county boards of supervisors to name directors.

Source: Gov. Haley Barbour

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