The face of Gulfport is changing before our eyes. It seems like there are construction workers and heavy equipment piecing together future businesses and attractions all throughout the city.
The busy construction sites in and around downtown are a welcomed sight for Pat Bittinger, a Gulfport native who recently returned to her hometown.
"Just seeing all of that empty property and having grown up seeing houses there. And now, boom, it's like mushrooms coming up. It's exciting. I love seeing that," said Bittinger.
Her husband, Ken Pennell, said he knows there may be some who aren't excited about the incoming industries, but he thinks it only spells benefits for Gulfport's future.
"The more you have to offer, the more people you're going to get. So, is there a downside? There might be. But who cares?" said Pennell.
A handful of big projects are all coming up simultaneously. Patio 44 is laying the groundwork for its new location. Island View Casino is quickly seeing its $ 75 million expansion coming to completion. The Holiday Inn Resort at Centennial Plaza is moving forward. USM's Port research facility is nearing completion. And then there's the aquarium making its presence known with a bustling construction site.
All these projects are positive additions in the eyes of Mayor Billy Hewes.
"It translates into jobs and opportunity, and there are folks here that are local and from out of the area that are recognizing that there's a lot to be had here, and an opportunity to make some money, and have a good time in the process," said Hewes.
Many Gulfport residents can't wait for the variety the Mississippi Aquarium will add to Gulfport's offerings.
"This is a great opportunity to have more things for kids to do. This is going to bring more family traffic in," said resident Tammy McKenna.
McKenna believes the aquatic attraction will likely even compete with what New Orleans has to offer because of the laid-back atmosphere that tourists like in south Mississippi.
"They're already coming over here from Louisiana to enjoy our beaches. Why not come over and spend the night and do the aquarium that weekend too?" said McKenna.
According to city officials, there are even more projects to be announced in the coming days.