Oil still a major topic during Business Roundtable

By MARY PEREZ – meperez@sunherald.com

GULFPORT

Coast business leaders said Thursday a federal economic incentive similar to the Go-Zone after Hurricane Katrina will be needed to renew confidence and investment in the Gulf states after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

This incentive probably won’t be as extensive as after Katrina, Brooks Holstein, manager of Comvest Properties, said Thursday during the Sun Herald Business Roundtable. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi is among those already working on legislation, he said.

The last Business Roundtable was April 22, the same day the oil rig caught fire and sunk 100 miles south of the Coast. Since then oil has seeped into every facet of the Coast economy.

Like the oil, the effects of the spill aren’t equally distributed. Lee Bond, vice president of property operations at IP Casino Resort, said IP’s casino and hotel business isn’t off since the oil spill but seafood sales are down and the cost is up. Casino revenue on the Coast increased 4 percent in June and Bond said, “I believe July will be up also. We’re optimistic about he rest of the year, too.”

Those whose income depends on the water are more affected by the oil. Louis Skrmetta, owner of Ship Island Excursions, said this was the year he hoped to regain the business lost since Hurricane Katrina 5 years ago. Instead his business is down 79 percent this year, with 75 passengers a day instead of the usual 400. His projection of 50,000 passengers this season has narrowed to 10,000.

“We’re not shutting down. Hopefully next year we won’t have to go through this horror,” he said. Skrmetta filed a claim for lost business and said BP has paid one-third of what he requested.

Others said they had a similar response from BP and said they don’t believe the company’s promise to restore the area.

Read more: http://www.sunherald.com/2010/07/22/2352156/oil-still-a-major-topic-during.html#ixzz0uVQO3Ykc

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