GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Before Hurricane Katrina, there were just a handful of restaurants in Gulfport's downtown area, but now there are around 32 bars and restaurants. That's partly thanks to Gulfport's Main Street Association.
Tuesday evening, the association held the first of two strategic planning public input sessions so community members and business owners could give input about how to attract more development to Gulfport.
The busy downtown Gulfport area is not the same place, the city's main street's executive director Lisa Bradley remembers before Hurricane Katrina.
"Before Katrina I worked for the chamber of commerce and my office was one or two doors down from here, completely empty when I left in the evenings. If it was after 5 they wanted me to call the police for an escape because I was the only one in town," Bradley recalled.
But now, Bradley says these restaurants and bars like Kelly's Sports Pub are bringing new life and tax dollars to the city. That's why she says she wants to hear from citizens and business owners to find out how they can continue the growth of Gulfport.
"We're looking for input from the community, business owners, land owners, just anyone who is interested. You know, you go places and you go and you say, 'Man that's a really special town because they have these things that make them really special.' I want to know what those things are," Bradley said.
A Gulfport business owner and board member of the main street association says it's important that all businesses focus on marketing Gulfport.
"I think that we're in an age of social networking and I really believe that if everybody could put the same message out on social networking as to the viability of developing downtown it would happen," said restaurant owner Rob Stinson.
The public is invited to attend Wednesday's meeting and provide their input. The meetings starts at 3 p.m. and will be held on the 7th floor of the Hancock Bank building in downtown Gulfport.