Economy puts strain on south Mississippi businesses

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – Despite the tough economy, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce is still going strong. That's the message members heard Wednesday at the Chamber's annual meeting in Biloxi.

Outgoing chairman John McFarland pointed to a number of successes over the past year, along with efforts to attract the film industry to south Mississippi. The incoming chairman said the economy continues to be the biggest challenge this year.

"Memberships and sponsorships make it tough for businesses to spend the extra to keep some programs going," said Wes Fulmer. "So we're tightening our belt.  We're doing some of the things to make the Chamber continue to provide all the services to the members, at the same time, not cutting programs, but being more efficient with the funds that we do have we don't put a burden on the members we have. "

Fulmer said one of his goals is to help make sure businesses are operating correctly and efficiently.

During the meeting, the Chamber also honored a man who has made significant contributions to the field of business.  Gerald Blessey received the Pat Santucci "Spirit of the Coast Award."

Blessey was recognized for his distinguished record of community, state and national service.  He served two terms as mayor of Biloxi.  He was also a member of the state House of Representatives and volunteered for duty in Vietnam. His military service earned him a Bronze Star.

After Katrina, Blessey was appointed by the governor to the post of Gulf Coast Housing Director.

"It's a surprise.  I'm at a loss for words really.  It's just a wonderful, wonderful thing," Blessey said. "I really appreciate the recognition. This is my hometown and the Gulf Coast, of course, has been through so many hard times with Katrina and Camille, but come back over and over again.  It's an honor to be a part of this community."

Blessey said his inspiration comes from the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast who come from different backgrounds, yet always work together to make this area a great place to live, work and visit.

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