Harrison County Sees Remarkable Post-Katrina Industrial Expansion

Bill Hessell looks over a map of the Bernard Bayou Industrial District and counts the success stories.

"Block USA is new since the storm," says Hessell. "Shawn Anthony is new since the storm. Tom Davis is new. Dolphin Development is new. Fed Ex is new."

The county owned industrial site, like others across the county, is quickly filling up with new industries.

"Biloxi Commerce Park over in Biloxi off of Popp's Ferry," says Hessell, the Property Management Director for the Harrison County Development Commission. "We have sold everything except one lot is left since the storm."

That's something Hessell and others at the Development Commission never expected to happen so soon after Hurricane Katrina.

"It didn't seem to bother the manufacturer or the business person. Maybe it was more of residential fear than any commercial fear, but they just wanted to get back in business, create their jobs again, get their people back to work."

And Hessell says that's fueling the fire of economic recovery in South Mississippi much faster than anyone anticipated.

"In just this one year period since the storm, we've had over $50 million in capital investment in Harrison County in just our industrial parks. Over 500 new jobs have been created. I think the payroll for those is roughly $17 million."

He says the problem they're facing now is where to put other new industries that are showing interest in expanding into South Mississippi.

"We are in the process of trying to purchase 650 acres up towards Saucier. And the reason for that is because of the demand for property in our industrial parks since the storm."

He says it's an unexpected problem they're happy to have.

"I think it's somewhere people want to be and I think they see the benefit of being here. There's a lot of advantages to South Mississippi."

Hessell says representatives with the existing industries tell him if the man power and the housing were available, they could add up to a thousand new jobs in Harrison County right now.