The number of people who are drawn to live in South Mississippi is greater than the number of people who left the region in recent years, according to new census data.
Numbers released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau show that of the six lower Mississippi counties, all but one -- Pearl River County -- saw more people moving in than moving out between 2007 and 2011.
The numbers also show that those people aren't coming from too far away, as the most people moving in from out of state came from Mobile County, Ala., and St. Tammany Parish and Jefferson Parish, both in Louisiana.
Saturday marked the six-month anniversary of Patricia Hogan's move from Metairie, La., to Gulfport, and she couldn't be happier with her relocation.
"The crime in New Orleans is terrible and it's moving to parts of the city recently untouched by crime," she said. "Also, I was able to triple the size and quality of my home for very little additional investment."
Hogan also touted the benefits of living along the beach.
"It was the peacefulness of a beach community versus the city life ... it's not a bad ride to dinner or anyplace else driving down the beach," she said. "My friends from (New Orleans) visit often ... they love it here and find it just as peaceful as I do."
Hogan lived in Long Beach when she was in high school, so returning to the Coast meant reconnecting with old friends.
"I still have friends living here from my high school years and when I was ready to leave the grind of the city, the Gulf Coast was a perfect fit for me."
Harrison County saw a net gain of 648 people, when 15,701 people moved in and 15,053 people moved out over five years.
Robin Davis, a realtor with Gardner Realtors in Biloxi, said she does see more people moving into the Harrison County area, but not in huge amounts.
"Most of them are relocation people who are coming in for better jobs," she said. "Most of them are moving from out of town, out of state, coming in for job openings."
Davis said she typically sees people between the ages of 30 and 40 moving in, and she's also noticed investors taking advantage of property in the area because of a low stock market.
"I do see some of the prices stabilizing off a little bit," Davis said. "That happens when there aren't as many houses out there. Foreclosures are dropping off, and it's stabilizing because you've got a fair market."
In Hancock County, there was a five-year net gain of more than 1,800 people. County Supervisor Lisa Cowand said the growing population numbers don't come as a shock, but she said most of that increase is coming from Section 42 housing, which is subsidized housing reserved for low-income residents.
"With the Section 42, we're getting a lot more people that are hard to account for," she
said. "It does make sense, because the people on board at the food pantry are asking 'where are these people coming from?'"
Cowand said despite the growing number of people in Hancock County, she doesn't believe business is growing to match it.
"There's no growth in commerce," she said. "And that's scary because you see the population growing, but commerce is not."
But in Jackson County, economic development officials credited the net gain of people with a growing business scene and more opportunities.
"It's hard to explain specifically why these people came here, but it's probably just another piece of evidence to make the case that we're doing the right things here in Jackson County," said George Freeland, executive director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation. "We'd like to believe that it's because we fared pretty well during the recession, and that's because of our strong industrial base and efforts to diversify the community."