City Leaders and Business Owners Say Loss of Military Detrimental

The United States Secretary of Defense says the government is considering closing some of the country's military bases. Here on the coast we have three military installments including the Seabee Base in Gulfport, the Naval Station in Pascagoula and Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. Some business owners say Keesler is their bread and butter, and they want it to stay open.. Kyle Mickelson says his Internet cafe was thriving in Gulfport a few years ago he and his partner decided to move the business to a better location.

"We looked at the Keesler market and this location came open. We actually picked up our whole location and came here specifically for Keesler," said Mickelson.

Now servicemen make up 50% to 75% of the cafe's patrons, but the owners aren't the only ones reaping the benefits that the base provides. According Keesler Air Force Base, in 1999 it had a 1.4 billion dollar impact on the coast. So naturally the threat of a round of base closings is not good news for Biloxi city officials. Although none of coast military bases are immune to closure, Biloxi mayor, A.J. Holloway, says he is confident that Keesler can withstand any cuts because the base has strong emphasis on flight, training and medical services.

Holloway said "With all that going on, we feel that Keesler is in a good position. You never know to be certain, but we feel good and Keesler feels good."

Mickelson says everything from furniture stores to fast food fast food restaurants thrive off of the base and a closure could be drive him and others who depend on it for their livelihood... out of business.

by Danielle Thomas