BILOXI (WLOX) -- Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway has come up with a rather frank assessment of his city's recovery. In an interview with Brad Kessie, Holloway admitted he was concerned about the slow pace of recovery along Beach Boulevard, because his city was losing thousands of sales tax dollars every month.
Before the storm, restaurants dotted Biloxi's shoreline. So did small hotels and family attractIons. And the sales tax money they collected boosted city coffers. Without those businesses reinvesting in Biloxi, Mayor Holloway sees some lean days ahead for his city's main source of income.
There are days when Holloway sees nothing but his city's natural beauty. But too many times, the waterfront scenes that make Biloxi so attractive to tourists, and so special to locals, are obscured by Katrina scars that still haven't healed.
"I don't think we're way behind. But I think we're behind," the mayor said.
Holloway is an optimist. So, when he drives down Beach Boulevard, he sees opportunities for developers to re-establish Biloxi as a haven for tourists.
"We're open for business," Holloway said. "We want to see Highway 90 come back. It's our lifeline."
However, the mayor is also a realist. And the reality his city faces, especially on Highway 90, is quite daunting.
"All of those restaurants and all of those other businesses that were on the beachside and the northside are just not coming back," he admitted.
Consequently, city sales tax collections along Beach Boulevard that topped $400,000 a month before the storm are now just $130,000.
"The development is very, very slow there, particularly in the commercial development," he said.
So, Holloway believes allowing RW Development to expand its South Beach project to include a casino, shops and restaurants may be the spark his waterfront needs.
"Our industry of course is hospitality and tourism," Holloway pointed out. "So we have to do something to jump start that area. And I think South Beach may be the catalyst that does that."
So far, South Beach developers only have the zoning change they need to proceed with their casino project. Their Veterans Avenue location still needs approval from the gaming commission. That could come in the next couple of months.