GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It was a year in review for the City of Gulfport on Friday morning. Mayor Billy Hewes presented a slideshow full of positives for Gulfport at the annual state of the city breakfast.
With the past year laid out in a slideshow presentation, it looked like a lot of things were going right for the city. Hewes, after donning a festive wardrobe, launched into a long list of good news for the city. Much of it focused on incoming developments.
"People are recognizing that there's a lot of opportunity in Gulfport and across this coast, but there's so much excitement that's coming," said Hewes.
In fact, Hewes tallied up the announced and incoming projects' values at more than $1.5 billion.
"It's made up of like 18 projects. It's not just two or three big ones," said the city's economic development director, David Parker.
According to Parker, some of those projects are right around the corner, while others might be a few years away. The Island View Casino has announced a $75 million expansion, and new businesses are opening on a constant basis in the city.
One of the projects that is still in development is the aquarium project. Parker said he knows a lot of people have questions about the progress, but he and the mayor say the $100 million attraction is on track.
"It takes a while to figure out exactly what you're going to build. This is going to be more of a campus. More of a zoo design," said Parker.
A bulk of development in the city can be attributed to the Port of Gulfport. Port director and CEO Jonathan Daniels has overseen big business moves there this year, including the return of Chiquita and welcoming other shipping businesses.
"On top of that, right at the corner of Hwy. 49 and 30th, we've broken ground and we're putting foundation in for the Southern Miss Marine Research Center," said Daniels.
According to Hewes, the incoming projects are geared toward bringing even more people and recognition to the city in the coming months and years.
Parker told WLOX tourism made up more than a quarter of Gulfport's economy this year. There are plans in the works to hold a bicentennial celebration for our state at Centennial Plaza in late March.
As far as the resort plans for that space, Hewes said developers have dropped off additional material recently at city hall. He said that's a promising move for the future of the development.