Harrison County

‘Just give us a shot,’ Biloxi mayor says at breakfast

Sixteen months into office, Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich announced Wednesday that “the theme of our administration is keep Biloxi safe, friendly and beautiful.”

He’s made it a priority to keep the beach beautiful. For the past few weeks, a blitz of city crews and volunteers from Keesler Air Force Base has turned out along U.S. 90, trimming greenery, blowing off sidewalks and cleaning up debris. Their work is timely, with company coming to town the first week in October for Cruisin’ The Coast.

The city welcomes 7.5 million tourists a year, Gilich said Wednesday during his Breakfast with the Mayor presentation at The Innovation Center.

“We want to double that,” he said, and to do that will take being affordable, friendly and beautiful, and by having an easy way to get to Biloxi, whether flying or driving to the Coast.

Someone in the audience at the Biloxi Chamber breakfast suggested the sand along the beachfront could be lowered several feet to expose a portion of the seawall. That would help keep some of the sand from blowing onto U.S. 90, the speaker said.

Dunes and sea oats are being used to keep the sand in place but Gilich said, “Sometimes the dunes work. Sometimes they don’t.”

He said Biloxi will engage some experts at Texas A&M to help keep the sand from shifting, possibly with jetties such as the one near Courthouse Road in Gulfport.

Gilich also told the audience the mayors of South Mississippi just met to see how best to use the millions in economic damages coming to Mississippi due to the BP oil spill.

After the 2010 oil spill, he said, people didn’t want seafood from the Gulf, and he asked, “That’s an economic damage, right?”

He said the mayors are working on a regional approach to use the money. A committee could be established to decide what projects move South Mississippi forward in the right way and not have an argument each year as another BP payment is made.

In Biloxi, the money might help fund a new Keesler Main Gate on Division Street, which Gilich said is a priority for the base. Keesler is among a handful of bases in the running for a new unit, which he said would bring in 800 airmen, and officials have made site inspections of the city, Stennis Space Center in Hancock County and Hattiesburg’s Camp Shelby.

Gilich got fired up as he described the high-tech opportunities for Biloxi. A summit was held in the city last month in an attempt to get industries that make products using high-performance materials to move production facilities to the city.

Biloxi has a lower cost of living than many places, with the most favorable utility rates and ad valorem taxes for these companies, he said.

“We can compete with anyone across the country,” he said. “Just give us a shot.”