GULFPORT (WLOX) -- Founded in Strasbourg France in 1908, industrial roofing material manufacturer Soprima has grown into one of the world's largest suppliers of roofing materials. Wednesday, the company held its centennial celebration at its newest American plant in Gulfport.
"Welcome y'all," Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr told a crowd of employees and customers. "And if the translators will handle that for me, I would appreciate it."
Warr may not speak French, but he understands perfectly what Soprema's presence says about Gulfport.
"Soprema is a big French company and it's fantastic," Warr said. "International business coming to Gulfport for their 100th anniversary. Big payroll here. They'll probably be expanding in a few years. It's a great day."
Some South Mississippi carnival flavor was thrown in with a short, but colorful parade.
"They have a lot of unique ways of doing business. And one of them is taking many of their employees and customers around the world to see their facilities, which they're doing here today," Harrison County Development Board President John Atherton said.
Soprema officials declined on camera interviews, instead deferring to local and state development officials.
Mississippi Development Authority Executive Director Gray Swoope says its those officials who've made the state's business climate attractive to international companies like Soprema. But he says Soprema's attraction now runs a little deeper.
"They felt very strong pre-Katrina that this was a place they wanted to consider," says Swoope. "Then after Katrina, you saw a light went off in their heads that, you know what, we're committed to the recovery of state of Mississippi and we're going to move forward. So this is a very special project for them as well."
The Gulfport plant, which opened last December, employs approximately 50 people with a yearly payroll of about $2 million.