Mississippi television executive Frank Melton believes in the state economy. But in a passionate speech to the Coast Chamber, he said, "We need to do a better job of marketing our greatest asset in the state, and that happens to be you."
Melton's business philosophy came just days after Wall Street analysts told coast leaders that the skyline you see now is what you'll see in the near future. Bruce Nourse was on the New York trip. The casino executive said Wall Street is "seeing, as we do, a small growth over the next year or two. Possibly a shakeout of some of the marginal operators."
The belief on Wall Street is that the possibility of a shakeout and small growth projections will temporarily prevent future developments from getting the loans they'll need to be built. As a result, Wall Street analysts say plans for a Hard Rock Casino proposed for between Beau Rivage and Biloxi's small craft harbor will remain on hold.
According to Biloxi bank executive Chevis Swetman, "It will probably be three years down the road before you see anybody else."
What the coast may see sooner than that is a cruise ship at the Port of Gulfport. According to Gulfport Mayor Bob Short, "The people are now learning that we can handle everything. We can handle a cruise ship, whether it's a homeport or a port of call."
Mayor Short was on the New York trip, pitching his city as a cruise destination. If one letter is any indication, the meeting opened some eyes. The letter came from an editor with Cruise Review magazine. John Fisher wrote that he would put money on Gulfport's success as a cruise line destination and homeport.
Coast leaders told Wall Street that if a cruise ship is on the horizon, it will stimulate the economy.
Next week, the Coast Chamber goes to Jackson to host a legislative reception. Business leaders will try to convince lawmakers that supporting coast projects can benefit the entire state.