Barbour Touts Jobs, Grant Money At Expo Opening - - The News for South Mississippi

Barbour Touts Jobs, Grant Money At Expo Opening

When Gulfport Sen. Billy Hewes introduced the governor to open the expo, he said Mr. Barbour stood out in the days after Katrina as a beacon in a sea of madness.

The first time the governor saw the madness was a day after Katrina made landfall.

"August 30, 2005 I flew down to this coast in a helicopter and it looked as if the hand of God had just wiped off the coast," he remembered.

The governor said he knew at that moment his state faced a monumental task. It had to somehow rebuild without basic infrastructure in place.

"It just doubled you over," he said.

The Governor's Recovery Expo is the Barbour administration's latest attempt to make sure Mississippians have the tools they need to rebuild their lives.

"When you go in and look down on the floor," he said, referring to the booths set up around the Coliseum's arena, "it is a marvel of participation."

At every booth Barbour visited, he saluted the vendors.

"Thank you all for all you all are doing," he told one woman.

Nearly 180 vendors have brought their products and their expertise to the Coliseum. The governor said he invited them here to lend a hand in the next phase of his state's remarkable recovery.

"Now, having said about all that progress, we still have a mighty tall mountain in front of us," Barbour remarked. "And the progress is slower than I want it to be."

One way to speed up that progress, the governor thought, is if hurricane victims can get quicker access to CDBG grant money. With that in mind, Governor Barbour announced that the 16,000 people who applied for rebuilding grants should have access to that money by the first week of September.

He also said HUD approved Mississippi's plan to take $50 million and put it in the state's wind pool. And he announced a new initiative called "Working Your Way Back Home." That program is supposed to help people who evacuted more than 150 miles from the coast find jobs in their hometowns.

Before he toured the expo floor, the governor was asked to compare his first trip to the coast post Katrina with what he sees around the coast today.

"What you're really struck by is the incredible amount of progress that's been made," he summarized. "And the difference between August the 30th of 2005 and today is literally the difference between daylight and dark."

The Governor's Recovery Expo runs Saturday and Sunday at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum.

by Brad Kessie

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