Governor signs bill to create unified tourism partnership

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant called it a historic day for South Mississippi. He flew to the coast Tuesday morning to sign a bill that will change the way tourism leaders promote the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"It's law!" proclaimed Governor Phil Bryant.

Applause erupted as Governor Bryant signed a bill aimed at supporting south Mississippi's second largest employer. More than 100 local elected officials, tourism leaders, and state lawmakers witnessed the signing ceremony at the Coast Convention Center in Biloxi.

"Today will be the day that I hope will be the brightest for you, because today is the day we all came together to make sure that the Mississippi Gulf Coast was all of the world's destination location," said Bryant.

The new law transforms the Harrison County Tourism Commission into the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. It will consist of nine members from Harrison County, three from Hancock County, and three from Jackson County. Members will be appointed by the board of supervisors in each county.

"This is a day that three counties put our competitiveness with each other to the side and come together and be united in order to promote the region as one. That's a great day," said Rep. Richard Bennett of Long Beach, who sponsored the bill.

Harrison County will initially finance the agency. After two years, Hancock and Jackson Counties will have to come up with their share of the funding.

"I think Jackson County is excited about the opportunity to participate with the other counties in one effort to market the Gulf Coast as one destination," said Jackson County Supervisor Mike Mangum.

"It's just a major milestone for South Mississippi where we can all join together and cross our jurisdictional lines to make South Mississippi one of the greatest places to come and visit," said Hancock County Supervisor Tony Ladner.

"I think it's an opportunity to expand tourism for the Gulf Coast. I think it is a significant event," said Harrison County Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

The bill also creates an advisory board that will consist of six representatives from local tourism-related organizations like the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association and the Mississippi Coast Sports Commission. The advisory council will work with the new tourism bureau, which will officially start on July first.

"For the first time in a very long time, we're not rebuilding or restoring or renewing. We're on offense and we're going to move forward and this bill will help in so many ways," said Governor Bryant. "Because this, in fact, is an amazing, exotic place that all of the world needs to come and see. And now together, all of us, one end of this beautiful coast to the other, will be inviting them to come."

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