Panel Courting Investment At Southern Gaming Summit - - The News for South Mississippi

Panel Courting Investment At Southern Gaming Summit

BILOXI (WLOX) -- The eyes of the gaming industry are focused on Biloxi this week.

Hundreds of industry representatives and executives are attending the annual Southern Gaming Summit at the Coliseum Convention Center.

Gaming summit visitors will no doubt notice the new casino resort going up in East Biloxi. Margaritaville reflects the kind of investment confidence area leaders are courting.

"Health care is available. Cash flow is great. We have a diverse economy which is somewhat immune to recession. Sounds like a pretty good place to spend money," said Hancock Bank's John Hairston, who was part of a panel talking about "Building a Destination."

New condos, highway work and tourist attractions under construction are the tangible proof of a post-Katrina recovery. But panel members also stressed the importance of after-the-storm attitude.

"We have learned how to adapt, adjust and overcome. And to that end, it makes the Gulf Coast significant for developers, for gaming, for business," said radio host and tourism commissioner Rip Daniels.

Post-storm planning emphasized the great significance of some attractions. Twenty six miles of sand beach will always be an asset.

"Our beaches, we came to really fully appreciate as one of our most significant competitive advantages. And frankly, I think it's the thing we probably took the most for granted before the storm," said Sun Herald Publisher Ricky Mathews, who chaired a governor's committee on tourism after Katrina.

"We've had an incredible amount of growth," said Airport Director Bruce Frallic.

The Gulport-Biloxi International Airport is poised to expand even further. It has already expanded the terminal and is building a new parking garage.

"We've grown from six non-stop cities to ten non-stop cities. We've grown from four airlines to eight airlines," said Frallic.

Panelists invited investors to join the Mississippi Gulf Coast on its quest to become a premier destination.

"All the recipe ingredients that you need to achieve a tier one or premier destination, those which are most expensive and difficult to build, we happen to have already. It's just a focus matter," said Hairston, "And we're applying that focus now."

By Steve Phillips

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