SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Coast business and elected leaders are gearing up for one of the most important trips they'll ever make. They're spending two days in Jackson to shake hands and bend the ears of lawmakers.
At stake is $650 million in BP money the state will receive over the next 15 years. That money is supposed to be used to repair the economic damage caused by the oil spill in the summer of 2010.
The signs of coast unity are everywhere. At Keesler Federal Credit Union in Gautier, the message is so important there's even a credit card with that theme.
"It's so important that we keep those funds here on the coast," said branch manager Christian Hartley. "We were all impacted by it and that's why it's very important with the one coast community that we stand together."
There's no guarantee all the money will be used on the coast. Henry Furr is an architect and developer whose livelihood depends on a strong coast economy.
"I think it's going to be some sort of compromise and that's why it's so important for the delegation to be unified in their voice," Furr explained.
Pascagoula City Hall will be well represented with three elected officials making the trip to Jackson.
"I think getting the cities and the unincorporated areas of the counties through their supervisors heard is going to be important to make sure that the bulk of that money is spent where the predominate damage occurred here on the Gulf Coast," Councilman Stephen Burrow said.
Perhaps the biggest piece of ammunition coast officials will take to Jackson over the next two days is a recent report by the Gulf Coast Business Council. It found that since the spill, the Mississippi Gulf Coast economy is no longer the economic driver for the state it once was.
"I think it's a big misconception that we're all just doing great down here right now," said Adam Flinchum, owner of Coffee Fusion in Ocean Springs. "I think the money would be a huge, huge economic impact for the area, and kick-start us again and take us where we need to be."
Coast Chamber officials agree with the report's assessment of a stagnant coast economy. One of them is the director of the Ocean Springs Chamber, Cynthia Sutton.
"It really kind of opened our eyes to kick us in gear to make sure that we keep moving forward and keeping economic development growing, and the BP money would definitely help," Sutton said.
Now, the goal is to make sure the rest of Mississippi is on board,
WLOX News Now will be in Jackson the next two days covering both events. Watch for Doug Walker's reports from the capital city both on-air and online.