New Business Council To Become Post Katrina Voice

Affordable housing. An acceptable path from the Port of Gulfport to I-10. The post-Katrina issues have the undivided attention of area business leaders like Anthony Topazi.

"There are so many issues that are coming up every day that we can't be reactive to, that we really have to be on the front end working to influence," Topazi said.

And so a group of business leaders led by the Mississippi Power executive has created the Gulf Coast Business Council -- a lobbying group that will fight for recovery issues that benefit the region.

"With the Gulf Coast Business Council what we're trying to is to bring together the business community in all three coastal counties in a much more unified way," he said.

If this group formed after Katrina sounds familiar, it is. It's a lot like the loosely organized group Coast 21. In fact, it has many of the same members who in the past successfully pushed for tort reform and got lawmakers to okay a four year curriculum at USM in Long Beach.

The new Gulf Coast Business Council takes Coast 21 a step further. The GCBC will actually hire a staff to lobby for key issues that impact business interests across the coast, "so that we have one voice influencing public policy and helping the elected leaders get done what needs to get done," said Topazi.

For example, the new business council will push for transportation improvements. And it will lobby lawmakers to extend go zone legislation, so investors have more time to take advantage of post Katrina development incentives.

Topazi said it didn't matter if the business was large or small. If it had a stake in south Mississippi's recovery, its ideas would be promoted.

So far, the Gulf Coast Business Council has about 130 members from all three coastal counties. It will temporarily set up an office in the Harrah's building on Seaway Road. And it will share that office space with groups like the Coast Chamber, the Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and the United Way.