The primary industries on the Mississippi Gulf Cosat are seafood, maritime, government, gaming, tourism, and support services for medical and government installations.
Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi is one of the regions largest employers and the largest electronics training facility in the world. With a total workforce of almost 16,000, the base infuses $1.4 billion per year into the local economy.
Other government facilities include the Naval Construction Battalion Center, Armed Forces Retirement Home, U.S. Customs Service, two Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care facilities, and the John C. Stennis Space Center in neighboring Hancock County, which tests the main engines of the nations space shuttles.
Tourism, now a $3 billion-a-year industry, boasts of over 23 million visits to the Mississippi Gulf Coast each year.
A 2000 Fodors survey of travel agents named this area the No. 3 "up and coming" destination in the U.S., second only to Las Vegas and Orlando. Its also ranked third among gaming states, and Saltwater Sportsman magazine has declared it one of the top 20 saltwater vacation destinations.
The Mississippi State Port Authority in Gulfport, which also handles truck and rail shipping, accounts for more than 5,000 jobs. The Port is in the midst of a $250 million expansion project to double its land area and accommodate anticipated growth. The Port is a U.S. Customs Port of Entry, providing a base for international trade. The Mississippi Coast Foreign Trade Zone 5,000 acres of secured sites at airports, industrial parks, and ports simplifies the import-export process by reducing or deferring tariffs.
The Industrial Seaway, north of downtown Gulfport, connects an industrial park directly to inland waterways. Harrison County has five industrial parks in all three in Gulfport, one in Long Beach, and one in Biloxi.
More than $1.3 billion has been spent on industrial relocation and expansion, with the greatest growth in distribution, marine fabrication, construction of offshore drilling rigs, polymer/chemical processing, and military shipbuilding. To meet the demands of this growth, $440 million is being invested in road and infrastructure improvements.
Away from the coast, Harrison County enjoys rapid growth in light industrial and technological manufacturing.
Mississippi is a right-to-work state, with only 6% of Gulf Coast workers unionized. The unemployment rate is consistently low. The workforce, drawn from a six-county area, offers a large pool of skilled and semi-skilled labor.
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