Gulfport mayor touts city's strong economic development

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - There's a lot to get excited about in the City of Gulfport. That's what Mayor Billy Hewes told a chamber of commerce crowd Friday morning. He presented the mayor's annual business address at Island View casino.

"I'm excited to be your mayor. I'm honored," he told the capacity crowd.

The mayor is upbeat about the economy in the state's second largest city. Development continues to expand near the busy I-10/Highway49 interchange.

"Y'all have seen the hotels. Two are coming out of the ground. Two more are going to come. The sportsplex, they probably have triple the activity they had last year. And they're continuing to build with leagues and folks who put on these tournaments every year looking for places to come. And they're finding this is a great place to bring your families," said Mayor Hewes.

The mayor is encouraged about the future of Centennial Plaza since a new developer from New Orleans has taken over that project.

He says nearby Coffee Creek could be developed to attract eco tourism to the area.

"To build that out, almost like a plaza. So folks can kayak up and down. That area is connected to Clower Thornton Nature Sanctuary. It's a bird sanctuary, a nature trail. And really dress out that area so we can have our eco tourism," he said.

Mayor Hewes says Gulfport has become known as a festival city and rightfully so.

"You know, that harbor and green space down there is without question the finest combination green space and harbor in the gulf south. It is a heck of a draw and a place to showcase what we're all about," he said.

He also praised Island View for its recently announced expansion plans.

"It's not just going to be the hotel. There's going to be an expansion of I think they call it the 'South Beach' concept, with restaurants and retail and those sorts of things between the tower hotel and the existing parking garage. So, it's great."

The mayor also touted the 'one coast' concept.  He told the crowd by all the cities working together, we can get a lot more accomplished.

The mayor says sales tax revenue in the city is trending upward. He also told the crowd a professional volleyball organization is bringing a tournament to the beach in Gulfport next summer.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.