When thinking about Gulfport, it’s important to remember that the city is just one of eleven on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Our Gulfport mayor, Billy Hewes, has championed the idea of the cities along the coast working together more effectively in a spirit of teamwork to grow our area. The concept is called “One Coast” and reflects the opportunity to continue to develop the Coast for the benefit of the 386,000 folks that call it home.
The number of jobs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast has increased (compared to prior year) for 29 consecutive months, and this is largely correlated to recent growth in sales tax proceeds. Like the region’s sales tax base, however, growth slowed in 2014, though there has been a slight uptick in the most recent two months. Comparing October 2014 to October 2013, the region has added 1,060 jobs, with construction in Jackson County fueling that growth. Growth in sectors including Leisure & Hospitality, Manufacturing, and Government has been flat.
The tourism industry on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the region’s largest private employer, accounting for roughly one in five jobs. While the industry has not fully realized its pre-Katrina levels, and while tourism was hit especially hard by the recession, significant strides have been made in 2014 which suggest that the substantial investment which has occurred in recent years coupled with a regional approach to promoting the region’s tourism offerings is paying off. Key indicators including gaming revenues, hotel occupancies, and tourism-related tax collections are all up after the critical summer months, outpacing both regional competition as well as broader economic indicators such as sales tax collections. With significant pipeline projects including a new minor league baseball stadium, new hotel projects, a new casino, and continued reinvestment in the region’s downtown areas, it is likely that the momentum will continue into 2015.
Government jobs are also very important to the Coast. In addition to the Seabee Base in Gulfport, Keesler Air Force Base is a big employer in Harrison County. Ingalls Shipbuilding in Jackson County builds ships for the Navy, and Stennis Space Center in Hancock County was built to test rocket engines used in our space program. Spending on Military and Defense in America is driven primarily by two annual pieces of federal legislation: the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and the Defense Appropriation bill. Roughly 1 in 10 people who work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are directly impacted by military spending; when considering indirect impacts (such as housing, spending with local vendors, etc.), the region depends greatly on military and defense funding. The military is not only important to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but to the state as a whole. Military spending in Mississippi amounts to roughly $2,000 per resident.