SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The Mississippi Gulf Coast is about to give the men and women in uniform a big show of support in more ways than one.
The annual Salute to the Military will take place Tuesday night at the Coast Coliseum. Also on Tuesday, leaders in several Harrison County cities are slated to vote on whether to contribute in on hiring a consultant to find ways to grow and protect our military bases from any possible future government down-sizing.
The Mississippi Development Authority has asked Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, and D'Iberville to contribute to the consultant fees. It's part of a proactive approach ensuring the continued growth and protection of Keesler Air Force Base, the Combat Readiness Training Center, and the Seabee base among other military installations in the Magnolia state.
Five days a week hungry people stop by Petie's Eats in Gulfport for a quick bite. The owner says many of the customers are from the nearby Seabee base.
Owner Rick Scarborough said, "On our business, it's major impact because we get a lot of the Seabee base clientele here. I would say 20 to 30 percent of our business per day."
Owners of the flower shop next door say a large percentage of their sales come from military members.
"Every time there is a change of command, we get business from that," said owner William Brewer. "They'll come in and order their flowers. We have made several friends. Ladies that we know will come in here and order flowers and their boyfriends come and order flowers for them."
According to recent studies, the Seabee Base had an $851,753,000 economic impact on the coast in 2013; At Keesler Air Force Base that number was $1.1 Billion.
Business owners said they're happy to see local governments take a proactive approach to keeping our bases open because of the many benefits of having a large military presence.
"You have a very diverse group of people. You get people from Ohio. You get people from the Philippines. You get people from California," said Brewer. "You have a such diverse group of people here because of the military base. I think it's very good to have that melting pot, and because we have that and because we're surrounded by two military bases on both sides of us we get a lot of it."
Biloxi and Gulfport have been asked to contribute $3,000 toward the consultant fee while Pass Christian, Long Beach and D'Iberville were requested to give $1,000 each.
The fee the cities are paying helps fund MDA's consulting contract with Cassidy and Associates to help protect and grow the state's military sector. MDA officials said that is especially important for Harrison County and the Coast due to the significant military in that region.