Hundreds of people filled the Imperial Palace for the 2006 Franchise Expo, all searching for new opportunities.
Including Marco Ceritelli, who moved to Gulfport August 27, looking to retire.
Now, he is looking to start over.
"We're looking for a little business to keep us busy and keep us out of the casinos as much as we can and that's what we're doing here. And I'm sure the coast is going to develop into something even bigger and better than it was before," said Ceritelli.
And the growth of the business community can help to insure just that.
That's why representatives of 70 national franchises were on hand to discuss how local residents can start a franchise, some without even having to have any previous business experience.
"The good thing about franchises is that in some cases they don't even want you from a similar field. They want to train you, and they have outside support and services to help you be successful in your business. There's a statistic I think the SBA puts out that less than 45-percent of all start up businesses fail within five years. The percentage of success for franchise businesses is 97-percent. It's a very high success rate because they have very rigorous screening process and business models," said organizer Ward Wicht.
MAACO representative Steve Stovall sees strength in this community, and is proud to be a part of helping South Mississippi rebuild through business opportunities.
And for that, Belinda Mauldin of Biloxi is grateful.
"I feel that the coast hasn't had their fare share and it's just an open market and I think it's the beginning of a real good thing," said Mauldin.
A wide range of franchise opportunities were present, ranging in everything from pizza parlors to day spas.