Hancock Bank is taking the lead in building downtown Gulfport.
That praise comes from several economic developers following the bank's unveiling of a $35 million hurricane restoration project.
Hurricane Katrina left some visible scars on the familiar Hancock Bank complex. But adversity can give way to opportunity.
"This is an exciting milestone for Hancock as we start the rebirth of not only South Mississippi, but the City of Gulfport, downtown Gulfport," said bank executive Carl Chaney.
Sketches of the new bank received an enthusiastic response. While the crowd admired the plan,construction crews kept busy making it happen.
The $35 million project leaves no question about the bank's commitment to downtown.
"The answer is we will rebuild it. We'll build it back better and we'll build it back bigger. And that's exactly what we're pleased to announce today," said chief operating officer for the bank, John Hairston.
Improvements include a new roof, windows and lighting on the tower, along with significant upgrades to the building below it. History shows the bank bounces back from serious storms.
"Those of you old enough to remember '47 or '69, we came back bigger and better. And we're going to do it this time too," said Leo Seal Jr., who helped oversee the bank's recovery in the wake of Hurricane Camille.
The plan includes more than just buildings. The outdoor plaza, known as Harbor Square Park, will be enhanced with more green space. The Harbor Square parking garage will also be expanded with the addition of 120 new parking spaces.
"It's a wonderful thing to have a corporate partner and a corporate leader in your community that sets such a pace and sets such an example," said a smiling Mayor Brent Warr.
That example may spur more development.
Leland Speed is head of the Mississippi Development Authority.
"And something tells me, this confidence, this putting your money where your mouth is, is contagious," Speed predicted.
Letting others catch a vision for development is just fine with Hancock Bank leaders.
Roy Anderson is the main contractor on the bank improvement project. The improvements should be finished by late summer. Hancock Bank plans a ribbon cutting and celebration on August 24th.