WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said not enough has been done to improve his city's economic outlook. He said Hurricane Katrina put many merchants out of business, and it's past due time to bring businesses back. He is turning to the community for help.
The number of lots for sale on Coleman Avenue outnumber the businesses there 5-to-1. Before Katrina, there were nearly 30 businesses.
"What I'm looking for on Coleman Avenue is just some plain activity," said economic development committee member Lana Noonan.
Bringing new business activity to Coleman Avenue and to other business districts in the city is the goal of a new economic development focus group. Smith appointed 10 people to the focus group. They include business leaders and members of the community.
"I believe that in years past we kind of took stabs in the dark when it came to economic development," said Smith.
The economic focus group will be tasked with finding ways to lure new businesses to Waveland. The hope is to reoccupy several vacant buildings now sitting idle.
"What really concerned me is when we found out the value of our mil dropped. The first questioned I asked myself was why, what caused it and it was stores like K-mart closing. Believe it or not, that had an impact," said Smith.
The first meeting of the focus group brought out an economic development expert.
"We're going to assume since we don't have a large robust tourism economy that most of our retail is supporting internal demand within the county, meaning they are only trading with people who are already living here. They are not people from Louisiana or Alabama coming to shop here for the most part," explained Ashley Edwards, Executive Director of the Port & Harbor Commission.
"I think part of what we have to look at is what can we do different. What could we do different to bring people in," said another committee member.
Once the ideas are formulated, the information will be turned over to the city to put into action.
Right now, the economic development focus group will meet once a month or more frequently if it becomes necessary.