Fun and games were top business news in 2016 on Coast

Kasha Cherry of Biloxi and her sons, Zachariah, 3, and Anthony, 5, play video games during a special pre-opening party at Margaritaville Resort Biloxi Monday June 20, 2016.
Kasha Cherry of Biloxi and her sons, Zachariah, 3, and Anthony, 5, play video games during a special pre-opening party at Margaritaville Resort Biloxi Monday June 20, 2016. File

The year will be remembered for business comings and goings in South Mississippi, more places to eat, more attractions and the start of the 25th year of the casino industry on the Coast as the Top 10 business stories of 2016.

1. Margaritaville, the third time around, proved to be a winner for Biloxi and Parrothead fans of Pascagoula native son Jimmy Buffett. Margaritaville Resort Biloxi barely had opened when developers Barrington Development Group revealed plans to add an amusement park and two more hotels if they can come to terms with the Secretary of State on Tidelands leases.

Entertainment resort has hotel, restaurants, stores and kids games.

2. Restaurants opened and closed in 2016 across South Mississippi. Gone are Bonefish Grill, the Biloxi Hooters and Lookout Steakhouse. The Old Biloxi Schooner closed in downtown Biloxi and moved to D’Iberville. The Blow Fly Inn closed and reopened and several new restaurants are on the way for next year.

Thomas Genin, co-owner of Whiskey Hotel, talks about the concept of the small hotel and restaurant that will be the first new hotel in the city since 1925.

3. More fun zipped and bounced into South Mississippi in the form of zip lines, trampoline parks, escape rooms and a Fishbone Alley. Along with the attractions came new hotels near the beach in Pass Christian and Biloxi and new shops opening from Bay St. Louis to Pascagoula.

New fun zones are for all ages and offer great way to get in shape.

4. Amtrak rolled across the Coast for the first time in years as thousands of people turned out to welcome U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Amtrak officials who rode aboard the inspection train in February. By December, grants were awarded to update stations in South Mississippi and Southern Railway Commission Chairman Gary White said it’s realistic that Amtrak passenger train service could resume on the Gulf Coast in 18 to 24 months.

5. American Gaming Association Executive Director Geoff Freeman arrived in Biloxi to talk about sports betting and kick off the 25th anniversary of casinos in Mississippi. The year brought tribal casinos into the mix, with the announcement that Foxwoods Resort Casino has partnered with Chris Ferrara to build Foxwoods Resort Casino at Biloxi Pointe, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians purchase of the Royal D’Iberville casino site in D’Iberville.

6. Ingalls Shipbuilding capped off a year of big contracts in December with an award for $1.46 billion for the Amphibious Transport Dock Fort Lauderdale. August and September brought four major contracts worth $135 million in just 30 days for the Pascagoula shipbuilder.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus spoke about the importance of diversity while visiting Ingalls Shipbuilding on Friday.

7. Chiquita returned to the Port of Gulfport after departing two years earlier for New Orleans. Three massive $30 million rail-mounted gantry cranes were installed to unload ships, and ground was broken for a new USM marine research center at the port.

The first of two rail-mounted gantry cranes rolls into place to unload Chiquita on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. Video courtesy of Port of Gulfport.

8. Pop Brothers in Gulfport got the support of the community and their big break. “Billion Dollar Buyer” Tilman Fertitta, owner of Landry’s and Golden Nugget Casino Biloxi, gave the family-run company lots of exposure on national TV — and a large order for their ice pops.

Pop Brothers in Gulfport offers freshly made popsicles with local ingredients. Chef Octavio Arzola talks about what inspires and excites him about the unique business.

9. Medical facilities flourish in South Mississippi as a three-story Bienville Orthopedic Specialists building off Mississippi 57 in Gautier became the start of a regional medical complex. Plans were announced for The National Diabetes & Obesity Research Institute to open a research facility at Tradition.

10. The Kemper County energy facility continued to see delays and cost overruns that now put construction costs close to $7 billion. The Mississippi Public Service Commission opened a “discovery docket” to give ratepayers 180 days to get their questions about Kemper answered by Mississippi Power.