Jackson Co. businesses excited about regional tourism bill - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Jackson Co. businesses excited about regional tourism bill

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The annual "Battle on the Bayou" kayak and canoe race lures visitors from as far away as California and Wisconsin to Jackson County. Participants paddled nearly 10 miles along Fort Bayou to the finish line at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint. The annual "Battle on the Bayou" kayak and canoe race lures visitors from as far away as California and Wisconsin to Jackson County. Participants paddled nearly 10 miles along Fort Bayou to the finish line at The Shed BBQ & Blues Joint.
JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -

 Jackson, Hancock and Harrison counties could one day in the near future be marketed as "one" fun tourist destination. Jackson County officials have now agreed to support a Gulf Coast regional tourism bill.

Rachel Austin works for South Coast Paddling Company, and she feels a lot of people don't know how much Jackson County has to offer.

"We have the Barrier Islands, National Seashore, Pascagoula River," Austin said. 

Business owner Leah Bray also believes the county is unique.  

"We have so many different things we can offer tourists in our waterways, our beautiful natural resources," Bray said. 

Jackson County officials have now agreed to get some help with marketing. 

"We voted unanimously to join with Harrison County and Hancock County in legislation that hopefully the state legislators will pass creating a coast-wide tourism agency," said Jackson County Supervisor John McKay. 

A similar regional tourism bill died in the state legislature last year.

"Whatever the legislative process is we are hoping it will pass quickly. A lot of our coast delegation said they are on board with it," said McKay. 

Jackson County officials said as part of deal they can have three members on the proposed tourism commission for two years, free of charge. Once the two years are up, the county will have to pay a fee if it chooses to remain on the regional team. 

"Harrison County with the largest budget through their tourism tax pays something like one million dollars," said McKay. "So, I would think Hancock County and Jackson County would pay an equal amount whatever that may be." 

Several county business owners believe any tax dollar invested will be money well spent. 

"It allows for local and small businesses to grow," said Austin. 

"You can have more tax dollars that are coming into our area that provides more infrastructure with our roads and schools and just more money in general," said Bray. 

The Gulf Coast Business Council has been the driving force behind the regional tourism plan. According to the council, the local-private bill is still being developed and will hopefully be done before the end of the legislative session. 

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