Gulfport business leaders optimistic about coast economy

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When it comes to business on the coast, visitors coming here is priority number one.

"Our best chance of growth in Harrison County is in the tourism industry. We have to get tourism rolling again, get hotels filled again, get some more hotel rooms built and book events," Harrison County Supervisor Kim Savant said.

More tourists could mean more customers at Southern Grounds Coffee House where business has had its up and downs, according to owner Jessica King.

"We are seeing some improvement, however I do feel like sales are more sporadic now than ever. Some months are really high. Other months are really low," King explained.

The Gulfport Chamber has a role to play in creating a prosperous economic climate.

"You see some expansion," said chamber member Angie Juzang. "You also see some incentive programs for businesses to develop in certain areas like Ocean Springs, Gulfport, you see organizations like the Chamber offering incentives."

While many of the business and elected officials tell me they are cautiously optimistic that things are slowly starting to turn around, some admit there are still some troubled areas that need to be dealt with.

Velecia Sims is with the Gulfport Job Corp Center.

"The job market is a little difficult, especially for students that are just completing college or getting out of a training program. Part of what we do is place students in jobs," Sims said.

Another key for Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes is letting everyone know what we have to offer.

"We've been pretty aggressive talking to economic developers to see if we can't get out retail sector going as well. The economy is trending, slowly but we're seeing some good improvement," Hewes said.

And some is always better than none.

Copyright 2014 WLOX. All rights reserved.