When the new year rings in, dozens of Jackson County workers will be unemployed. Hundreds of people in Moss Point lost their jobs to plant closings in the past two years. On Tuesday, 50 more workers will be unemployed when the Shipley plant shuts down, but Moss Point Alderman John Welch says a change in image could help the town get out of its economic downslide.
Together, retirees James Byrd and Robert Ellis have given Rohm and Haas and its subsidiary Shipley nearly 50 years of service. With one plant already gone and the other about to leave, they say many of their old coworkers and friends face a tough situation.
"They're still at a loss about their plans," said Byrd "Some of them are able to retire. Some of them have got to get another job."
Even with the loss of Shipley, Ward 6 alderman John Welch sees Moss Point on its way to an economic rebound. He says attracting new industry will play an important role in the city's recovery but he'd also like to see Moss Point develop its potential as a tourist destination.
"We've got the boardwalk which is an attraction," said Welch. "We've got probably the best boat parade on the coast.. We have a lot of activities on Pelican Landing and if we develop that land north that would bring people and ecology is beginning to be a big industry in itself and we need to tap in on that."
When it comes to tourism Byrd and Ellis are skeptics.
Byrd said "I think they need to focus on heavy industry instead of tourism because the only way that tourism is gonna work is if you have pretty beaches and I don't like them gambling boats but they bring in tourism and you'll never see one of them here."
"Yes, there could be some light tourism here but I don't think there could be enough tourism in Moss Point to really affect the economy of Moss Point," said Ellis. "Tourism is not going to get the type paying jobs that it's gonna take to get the city back on its feet."
In recent years Rohm and Haas and International Paper shut down. Welch said the city is trying to help the unemployed find jobs.
Welch added the city and Jackson County are working on bringing in new businesses to the area, but believes it will take 5 to 6 years to make significant progress.