HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - On Thursday, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce's Business After Hours came full circle. The event, called Gulf Strong, Coast Proud, drew about 400 people to Hancock Bank, the place where the business group met for the first time post Katrina.
That meeting in 2005 was about survival among destruction. Thursday's event was about a celebration of recovery.
Both meetings have plenty in common. Both went beyond simple networking.
Kimberly Nastasi, CEO of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce, remembers that meeting in October 2005 well.
"There was destruction all around, and yet, our hearts were so full because it was opportunity that we felt a little bit of normalcy because we were together," said Nastasi.
Paul Maxwell, of Hancock Bank, said the meeting was important for many reasons.
"It was a very emotional meeting," Maxwell said. "It was a time when people saw each other for the first time after the storm. It was a lot less networking and a lot more hugs and greetings and glad to see you and how have you been and how's your family."
Former bank president and CEO George Schloegel knew how necessary it was for the business community to come together.
"It was very important after the storm with all the devastation, loss of life, loss of property to build some confidence in rebuilding the Coast," Schloegel said. "That confidence came from the people."
The celebration included a new promotional short film about the Coast's recovery and a pep talk on the future to chamber members from current bank president and CEO John Hairston.
"Our role is to identify that next group of talent who aren't maybe quite as tired as we are," Hairston told the group. "What they can make happen in the next 20 years on the Mississippi Gulf Coast can create a jump start that's even greater than what we've done in the last 10 years."