GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker said Friday that extending the Go Zone tax credits is in the country's best interest.
He and Senator Thad Cochran introduced a bill that would extend those post-Katrina development incentives through this year.
The Go in "Go Zone" stands for Gulf Opportunity, and was designed to jump-start development right after the hurricane.
Using the newly restored Hancock Bank in downtown Gulfport as a prime example of its success, Senator Wicker made a case for renewing the tax breaks.
"This is a newly renovated building. And I think it's a glaring example and symbol of recovery in South Mississippi," said Dr. John Kelly, the chief administrator for the City of Gulfport.
Dr. Kelly served as emcee of the event in the newly renovated Gulfport Building at the corner of 14th Street and 25th Avenue downtown.
"The company took advantage of the "Go Zone" tax credits," said Hancock Bank Vice President Shane Loper.
Loper told the crowd those incentives not only helped the downtown project, but also enabled the restoration of bank branches in Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian.
"So, as you can see, we've really parlayed these Go Zone tax credits into an investment across the Gulf Coast," he said.
Senator Wicker said creating jobs and improving the economy in South Mississippi is good for all of America.
"We were able to sell that concept because we convinced them that these programs were in the national interest," said Sen. Wicker.
Painting contractor David Shoemake worked on the Hancock Bank project and relied on Go Zone tax breaks to rebuild his own business, which was destroyed in Katrina. He said extending Go Zone makes good sense.
"Because if you walk and drive around our community, we're not there yet. We have not recovered. We are in a full swing process of trying to recover," said Shoemake.
Go Zone tax breaks eased the way for several apartment projects in South Mississippi. One year ago, the developer of Grand Biscayne Apartments told WLOX News that federal tax credits from the Go Zone were enough to overcome higher insurance costs, which may have prevented the project.
The Hancock Bank project benefited from the historic preservation and bonus depreciation incentives.
Go-Zone also authorizes the Mississippi Development Authority to issue bonds for certain projects.
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