GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Gautier officials say they want to make the city more "user friendly." They invited local business owners and community leaders to an open forum Tuesday night and asked for their ideas to help the city grow. City government and business owners plan to work together to implement many of those ideas soon.
Christy Lee has fond memories of opening her Gautier pottery business, especially the warm welcome from Gautier residents.
"They would stop on their way home from work, open the door and say, 'Thank you so much for coming to Gautier,'" Lee said. "And we knew we were where we needed to be."
She said her relationship with city government hasn't been quite as easy over the years, and she has plenty of suggestions for making Gautier more business-friendly.
"On top of the economic conditions right now, the City of Gautier really needs to offer some incentives to get businesses in here," Lee said.
Over at Singing River Firearms, David Williams has some suggestions of his own. He said strict sign and banner ordinances make it hard for small businesses to afford advertising.
"We [business owners] have special ties to the city," Williams said. "But we feel like not only do we have ties to the city, the city should have ties to us also. They should promote our businesses or all the businesses in Gautier."
In a public forum Tuesday night, the city listened to Williams and business owners like him. Citizens, community leaders and business owners listed Gautier's strengths and took ideas on how to steer the city toward a better business environment.
"We want you to know that the most important part that we do as a city council and mayor and as a city manager is trying to go and make our city better," said City Manager Sidney Runnels. "And the way that we do that is by getting input from the citizens."
Some of the strengths mentioned were a connection to Hwy 90 and I-10, waterfront recreation, room for growth and a small community atmosphere.
A review of city ordinances and tap fees, a merchants association, an economic development council and a push to clean up were just some of their ideas for improvement.
City officials and business owners hope to work together to make many of these ideas a reality within a year. Runnels said especially in the rough economy, its imperative that the business community and city government work together for the good of the city.
"The ones [communities] that are going to be successful in these times and days we're facing are those that plan together, work together, live together and care about what we do as a community," Runnels said.
Lee and Williams said they're thrilled the city is taking their voices into consideration.
"I think that is a big positive step to helping court business and support business in the City of Gautier," Lee said.
Both said they trusted Gautier's current administration to get the job done.
"I think they're going to actually try," Williams said.
Runnels said he plans to hold other meetings of this kind in the future.