Across the Coast and beyond, 2020 has presented all-around challenges, sparing no city or government, something two-term Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes knows all too well, but the mayor sees light in the tunnel: harbor lights, camera lights, and much more as the city moves forward.
Cruisers have rolled out, but many cities, including Gulfport, were left with a much-needed economic boost to the local economy. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said, “If Cruisin’ the Coast showed anything, it’s that people really want to get out and need to get out, and I think we can be smart about it. I’m hopeful.”
Cruisin’ the Coast’s 25th anniversary is just around the corner, but there have been a number of opportunities the city has jumped on over the years, looking into the rearview mirror. “It showed us how we can extend our tourism season, and how we can have folks come year-round. But Harbor Lights, Rusty Walker had a hobby with these computerized Christmas displays, and he suggested, why don’t we find a sponsor and find a way to put it on steroids? The result is the number one Christmas draw in Mississippi, and in the top ten in America.”
And the city has just reached a major milestone in West Gulfport with the approval of the development design and tens of millions of dollars needed to breathe new life into Gulfport’s Job Corps Center. “It is a more-than $30 million dollar investment of federal monies into a Job Corps Center that has been obsolete, used but old, and in need of an upgrade. It’s going to be more than an upgrade. This will be a catalyst for The Quarters.”
For those who prefer transportation on two wheels, Gulfport is gaining ground in the field of ecotourism as seen at the 21-acre bike trail. Mayor Hewes credits Gulfport’s diversified attractions and businesses for softening the overall blow of COVID and helping to keep the city’s overall economy afloat. “We’re able to weather a lot of storms. In Gulfport there continues to be pretty robust development, a lot of people interested in being here. I think that’s a product really of the quality of life we are trying to create, everything from the outdoor nature trails and bike path, disc course, to the Aquarium.”
Wrapping it all up in two years, a multi-million dollar tram connecting the city’s lively downtown area with the south side of Highway 90, including Jones Park.