BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A new economic development fund in the city of Biloxi could soon help pay for facility improvements, create new businesses or expand existing businesses, without any cost to the taxpayers.
City council members created the fund Tuesday using $4.1 million from the city's BP settlement. That money would be the base of a perpetual account that's expected to grow over time.
"What we're doing," said Mayor Andrew "FoFo" Gilich, "is creating an opportunity for the city to borrow from itself, to avoid interest payments, to be able to match any state or federal grants that become available, and we'd do it while growing the $4.1 million. We want to see a fund that keeps giving and creating opportunity."
As an example, Gilich said, the city could use money from the fund for harbor expansion or to create a business incubator and repay the fund from rent or slip fees.
"The other great thing about this fund is that it is available to help strengthen the city's cash position," the mayor said. "We always have a healthy ending fund balance because the fund will either be cash or receivables from the economic development projects we fund."
Councilmember Dixie Newman said, over time, the fund could grow to $10 million or $20 million, depending on the scope of the projects funded.
Biloxi City Attorney Gerald Blessey, speaking to a "Katrina +10″ audience last week, suggested the state should create a similar fund.
"This BP money is a great opportunity for the state to use its $750 million to create a similar perpetual fund here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, where it would improve the areas most impacted by the oil spill," Blessey said.
Read the entire resolution passed by the City Council: http://www.biloxi.ms.us/agendas/citycouncil/2015/090115/090115bleg.pdf