Cautious Optimism For '07 Coast Economy

Home building continues to fuel the post-Katrina economy. But a longtime banker would like to see South Mississippi pick up the pace.

"We're not building back fast enough," cautions People's Bank president Chevis Swetman.

Swetman says residential rebuilding needs to get busier in '07.

"We've seen the building on the casino side, the casinos come on. Now we're starting to see a few condominium completed. But the biggest lag has been in the single family homes. And we need to see a lot more of that," he explained.

Casinos still hold a strong hand and are certain to continue as an economic force. Harrah's plans for Biloxi are the only uncertainty, given the recent corporate shake up.

An even larger uncertainty for overall recovery is the insurance crisis involving wind pool coverage.

"Hopefully, things will happen in the legislature that will correct that and eliminate another one of those uncertainties that's slowing the recovery down," said Swetman.

Condominium plans promise to be an economic factor in '07. A drive down Highway 90 shows several projects well underway and more than a dozen others in the planning stages.

"Lot of my customers are happy I'm back," says restaurant owner Joe Lancon.

The owner of the "Ole Biloxi Schooner" is counting on continued success in '07. The Biloxi native is serving up plenty of po boys and gumbo. He's managed to capture that old fashioned feeling in a brand new building on Howard Avenue.

"Born and raised in Biloxi. And you don't want to go out with a hurricane, so I'm glad I reopened for that reason right there," he said.

The hungry lunch crowd is happy he made the decision to reopen. He predicts more economic happiness in the new year.

"Very optimistic. I think '07 is going to be good. And then on, you know. I think it's just going to get better and better," said a smiling Lancon.