HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Bringing more industry and business to south Mississippi is a challenge that many of our coast leaders face every day. After a Wednesday morning workshop in Gulfport, Harrison County leaders may be a little better equipped to face the challenge.
Industry experts from around the world shined a light on the potential for more business in Harrison County. According to Harrison County Development Commission Executive Director, Bill Hessell, the county already has a strong industry presence. He said there are thousands of people employed in more than 200 companies bringing in $300,000,000 annually. But, he doesn't believe that's a reason to sit back and relax.
"We have to keep improving and keep being more competitive in sites, in incentives, in our workforce development," said Hessell.
The featured speakers at the Economic Development Symposium explained how much has changed in recent years in regards to site selection. The abbreviated time scale for big companies has forced more competition into the market.
One way companies in south Mississippi can stand out is by becoming Project Ready Certified. This program through Mississippi Power checks that a site is completely ready for industry including infrastructure, utilities, and access.
The Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport recently achieved certified status.
"The timeframe for identifying these sites from the moment that they project the need to beginning construction has really shortened up and by being certified we're way ahead on that scale," said Jim Foster, assistant executive director of the airport.
Hessell said potential clients are already showing interest.
"We've had several strong inquiries from the aviation and aerospace technology fields," he said.
One area that Hessell hopes will soon become certified Project Ready is the new 500 acre North Harrison County Industrial Complex. The site still lacks access to natural gas, but Hessell and other officials hope this could change soon, bringing even more business to our area.
Officials at the symposium said finding a steady and reliable workforce is one of the biggest challenges our area faces in attracting industry.