Visiting the Gulf Coast, Mississippi region this weekend, I was curious to see how the revival of the area has developed since not only the BP oil spill this year but also Hurricane Katrina from over five years past. While individuals in the community are still pulling together to draw tourism back to the Gulf Coast area since the the oil spill, Gulf Coast businesses like many across the nation wait anxiously for lawmakers in Washington D.C. to make decisions about tax rates, health care, and energy legisaltion.Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey shot the videos below among others, as we both asked business leaders in the Gulport region to give us an update about how the area is faring these days.
Here, Bill Holmes, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center spoke with us about the history of the Convention Center. In particular, I asked Mr. Holmes if the effects of legislation from Capitol Hill lawmakers concern him any. Mr. Holmes had much to say, when I inquired if new energy legislation was something he did not think businesses like the Coliseum and vendors the Coliseum does business with were considering.
“It’s not small, because it makes us sharpen our pencils more. And it makes your bottom line …the facilities’ bottom line less. Energy is a problem right now. Insurance is a problem right now. Employees’ benefits—keeping good employees is a problem right now,” Mr. Holmes said.
The health care bill passed in March is also something Mr. Holmes was critical about and pointed out there is only so much businesses can pass on to the consumer.
“This health bill that they passed that we may have to go under…it may be better that we don’t even do the health bill and let our employees go ahead and get national healthcare. Those kinds of issues like the healthbill…that’s what impacts us. But you can’t pass that on to your lessees. In fact, they can only pay so much. You van only keep tacking their registration on to the patron. The patron says economically, ‘I can’t afford to go the hotel rooms, afford the registration. I can’t afford the meal rates,’” Mr. Holmes explained.
Jack Norris president of the Gulf Coast Business Council (above in the video) was a staffer for former Republican Mississippi Senator Trent Lott. Mr. Norris describes how businesses in the Gulf Coast region have been able to build themselves up since both the BP oil spill, Hurricane Katrina, and the recent recession.
“Some of the policies out out of Washington…well any business leader at the end of the day, what they want to know is—consistency, and I think some of the policies, that’s been an added [by DC politicians], to some degree, added an amount of uncertainty,” explained Mr. Norris. “Just the health care bill alone—because so much of it alone will require rule-making and regulations that are yet to be implemented,” he said. “A lot of companies are still trying to figure out what it means to their business. How is it going to impact their bottom lines?”
Mr. Norris also noted how important it is for both small and large businesses that the the current tax rates are extended.
“Again, I think its an issue of consistency and predictability. And as long as the tax cuts are in flux, it adds to the uncertainty that exists in our market and markets all over the country. So I think its important that Congress acts and extends those tax cuts to add certainty to our small and large businesses all along the coast,” he added.
Finally, it is clear the Gulf Coast region in Mississippi has cleaned up tremendously and is more than ready to serve many tourists who can enjoy the beaches, hotels, restaurants and casinos among other attractions.
A silver lining to some of the hardships endured is that more of a spotlight has been placed in the Gulf Coast as result. Even in difficult times, Americans are known for being charitable.
For example, liberals and conservatives like Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour and Talk Radio Network’s Ellen Ratner, a media pundit known for her liberal Democratic views, worked together to create the Marsha Barbour Center. The center is a tribute to Marsha Barbour, wife of the Mississippi Governor, who immediatley mobilized to assist areas in Mississippi most affected by Hurricane Katrina.