State Official Says Pawn Shops Don't Belong On Highway 49

Thousands of cars arrive in Gulfport every day, and Highway 49 is usually the first impression drivers get of the area. But the head of the Mississippi Development Authority says some businesses don't belong along the gateway to the Gulf Coast.

Leland Speed said "We've got to do a better job. I mean tattoo parlors and pawn shops do not intrigue visitors. That's not at your entrance. You don't put that at the front door of our community".

Gulfport Councilman Chuck Teston agrees. Teston said "I don't like it. I think it should be more or less in a centralized business district instead of our thoroughfare, our gateway to the real city".

Earl Brown said "I feel everybody ought to have a right to get out and run a legal business".

Brown manages "Discount Buy and Sell" on Highway 49. He says his business is actually good for the city of Gulfport.

Brown said "We shut down two pawn shops in Florida to come here, is the simple fact that the casinos are down here and we're here to loan people dollars to get home when they need a dollar to get home on".

Councilman Teston says he would vote against any pawn shop and tattoo business that wants to locate on 49 in the future, and says the city is already taking steps to spruce-up the busy corridor.

Teston said "It looks like a junk yard dog right now, but we're going to clean it up and you're going to be proud of it".

MDA Director Leland Speed says other ways to improve the appearance of Highway 49 and communities in general include stricter control over billboards, better landscaping and more housing in the downtown area.