Is the coast’s economy on the rebound?



 More than 100 business leaders attended Thursday’s business expo, hosted by the Biloxi Bay Chamber. All listened intently as the coast economy took center stage. The general feeling was that tough times are not over, but it’s getting better. 

For the coast condo and real estate market, we hit bottom last year, according to real estate developer Michael Boudreaux. 

“There is a hint of a small likelihood that 2009 was the bottom of the trough, and the foundation for new growth is beginning in 2010,” Boudreaux said.

That new growth may be seen in the golf industry, as well as the charter boat business. Incentives like free gas cards for tourists will be handed out again this year.

The coast’s largest industry, casino gaming took a big hit.  Beverly Martin is with the Casino Operators Association.  

“We were down, down, down, down, 9.4 percent,” Martin said.

Another concern for coast casinos is the growing competition from Indian casinos in Alabama.

“It warrants watching,” Martin said. “And we have to be concerned with our market because one third of our market comes from the east.”

Linda Hornsby with the Hotel-Motel Association said the industry still hasn’t recovered from the devastation of Katrina. 

“Pre-Katrina, we had 17,544 rooms, and that’s counting everything that can be considered a transient lodge,” Hornsby said. “Currently in that same area, we have 12,700 rooms.” 

But Martin also said it appears the corner has been turned.  

“We’ve probably seen the worst of it,” Hornsby said. “We are slowly experiencing the turnaround, starting this month and next month, but it’s going to be a slower turnaround.”

Small businesses are also feeling the pinch.  Stephen Whitt heads up the Innovation Center. 

“You have a small business, you know that you’re probably feeling that you’re facing more challenges than you did a year ago, or two years ago, or three years ago,” Whitt said. 

So, the experts say 2010 is not going to be a economic walk in the park, but anything will be better than the past year.

Business leaders cautiously optimistic about 2010 economic outlook

By Doug Walker

WLOX- ch 13


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