Barbour Ready To Focus On Coast's Future

The Prime Outlet shopping mall near I-10 was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Since its stores weren't open, Governor Barbour used its parking lot to host a forum.

At one point during the meeting, Barbour looked out toward friends and political allies and drew Mississippi's new line in the sand.

"If we rebuild the coast just the way it was before Katrina, we will have failed," the governor warned.

And when it comes to restoring south Mississippi back to prominence in this state, failure will not be tolerated.

"It's incumbent upon us to take this disaster, make it an opportunity and turn south Mississippi into something we can be even more proud of, something that is bigger and better than it was before," said Barbour.

His administration just created the Governor's Commission on Rebuilding, Recovery and Renewal. It's mission is to look past the hurricane debris, and map out what south Mississippi should look like 20 years from now.

Jim Barksdale agreed to chair the massive undertaking.

"It will never happen again folks," the Jackson business tycoon told the crowd, referring to the rare opportunity Mississippi had to reinvent its coastline.

"This has got to be the greatest infusion of resources over the next few years in one area that isn't a war zone that's ever been done in the history of the world."

About half way through the commission's first meeting, President Bush walked in and joined the discussion. It was his fifth trip to the hurricane ravaged coast in 22 days. This appearance was specifically designed for him to hear what the federal government can do to assist local and state rebuilding efforts.

"Be willing to think anew, because you have a fantastic opportunity," the President advised. "We'll get the debris removed. We'll get your water systems up and running as soon as possible. We'll get your bridges built. But the vision that you detail as a result of this commission is going to be the blueprint for the future."

Bush and Barbour both reminded commission members that they have a once in a lifetime chance to turn a south Mississippi disaster into a great success story.

"There is no doubt in my mind that out of the rubble and out of the huge heaps of timber that used to be homes, a better Mississippi will emerge," said the President.