SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - At first, it seems odd. A marketing proposal with no budget, no infrastructure and no meetings. There's only an idea, a logo and a hope to turn the decades old concept of regionalism into a working part of Coast culture.
South Mississippi leaders are hoping that simple idea will go a long way.
Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and other leaders have pushed the One Coast initiative for almost a year. He said success will be a gradual process, so the Coast needs constant and gentle reminders about how import it is to find a common agenda on everything from governmental infrastructure to tourism promotion.
Hewes says there are ways to do that without destroying individual identity. At the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce's Networking at Noon meeting, he praised former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey for getting the concept rolling years ago before it was politically favorable.
"He tried to formalize a One Coast concept," Hewes said. "He tried to go to metro government. He saw the benefit in consolidation. The savings you could have, the efficiency you could gain, but he got hammered."
Hewes said there is a changing attitude. Over the past year, he says leaders are catching on to the concept in a big way.
One of the most successful stories of regionalism within the last year as been the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. New Executive Director Renee Areng is ready to take it even further.
"That's exactly what we're about," Areng said. "Travelers don't see boundaries. As a matter of fact, for international travelers, it could be bigger than the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We're looking at partnerships there, too."
"It's acknowledging that a rising tide lifts all boats. What I mean by that is what's good for one community is going to bleed over positivity into another," said Hewes.