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Mississippi wins when the Gulf Coast...

Mississippi wins when the Gulf Coast economy is at its best

By: Jamie Miller - January 10, 2023

The Mississippi Gulf Coast has endured its share of economic hardship in recent decades but has proven its resiliency each time.

Almost every economic metric measured in fiscal year 2022 (July 2021-June 2022) showed the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s economy gaining momentum.

Sales tax collections were up 9 percent across the coast with Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead and Biloxi reporting double-digit gains. The coast gaming and tourism revenues rebounded from pandemic-era lows with historic increases. Additionally, the unemployment rate for Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties was collectively below 4 percent in November. Coast cities made key investments in their downtowns and are creating attractive communities with more amenities for their residents and tourists to enjoy.

There are many bright spots to point to if you are keeping score. The Coast is an economic engine and when it’s firing on all cylinders, the entire state benefits. That’s the good news.

Jamie Miller

However, as we push forward into 2023, we have real reasons for concern. The combination of inflation, higher interest rates, and a difficult labor market could result in a different outcome for 2023. The competition for talent and capital is fierce. Now is the time for us to align our priorities and develop a plan to mitigate risk and seize opportunities. 

I recently began a new position as President and CEO of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council (MSGCBC) after working the last 10 years in state government. I served five years as the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi and five years as a deputy director with the Mississippi Development Authority in Jackson. This was after leaving a chief of staff position in Washington D.C. Each role gave me the opportunity to serve Mississippi and its people. It’s a great honor and responsibility to serve others.

One thing that stands out to me after those years of service is that it is easier to help people who are willing to help themselves.

Another stand-out truth is the regions of our state that experience the most success are not waiting for someone else to do the hard work. Show me a region that is thriving, and I can almost guarantee three things are present: an active business community, a community that shows genuine concern for everyone’s well-being, and a credible organization aligning and representing the interests of their region. 

This perspective is why I’m so excited about my new role as president and CEO of such a dynamic organization. The Business Council is the credible organization on the Gulf Coast that seeks alignment among stakeholders and represents the coast business and economic interests in Jackson and Washington D.C. The Business Council operates as a private nonprofit focused on identifying, researching, and advocating public policy that advances our region’s priorities and produces positive outcomes to our region’s most challenging issues.  

The Business Council plans to be active in the 2023 legislative session by advocating for policies that grow our Coast and state economies. Among our legislative priorities will be a focus on the future of Stennis Space Center (SSC) in Hancock County. We believe SSC can become a center of excellence for unmanned systems, commercial space flight and attract more federal missions in addition to NASA’s current critical role of testing rocket engines. We also support the Mississippi Cyber Initiative and the construction of a Mississippi Cyber and Technology Center at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi. These two priorities alone would attract higher-paying jobs and advance our efforts to create a technology and innovation economy. 

However, our top priority continues to be the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund (GCRF). This fund, established in the special legislative session of August 2018, was a result of a $750 million state settlement for economic damages caused by the 2010 BP oil spill. We believe this fund represents the greatest opportunity for strategic investments in Coastal Mississippi.

To grow the economy, we must create jobs with higher wages and attract private capital investment.  We believe one way to do this is by investing to create project-ready sites. MDA has made site development a top economic development priority for our state and the same is true for the Gulf Coast. We need dedicated funding to enhance existing sites and develop new sites in order to expand existing industries and attract new companies. We believe a significant portion of the approximately $300 million remaining should be dedicated to pure economic development efforts on the Gulf Coast. An annual commitment of funding over the next 10 years would represent a wise and strategic investment for our future. Everyone involved in economic development across our state agrees these types of investments are essential to remain competitive.  

The MSGCBC looks forward to a productive 2023 legislative session and believes Mississippi wins when the Gulf Coast economy is at its best.

About the Author(s)
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Jamie Miller

Jamie Miller is the President & CEO of the Gulf Coast Business Council. He is the former chief operations officer for the Mississippi Development Authority and a former executive director for the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. Miller also once served as Chief of Staff for former Congressman Steven Palazzo.