Bond Agencies Speech

Mayor’s presentation to bond rating agencies, made in July 1995, to Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investments Service.

Thank you for the opportunity make this presentation today about the City of Biloxi. We have a lot of exciting things occurring in our city right now, our citizens are excited, business leaders are excited, and I’m hoping that you’ll be excited after this presentation.

With me today are:

  • City Council President Eric Dickey, who will tell you about our form of government and how it operates the city.
  • Controller Bill Lanham, who will present you an overview of our financial structure.
  • And Chief Administrative Officer David Nichols, who will tell you about economic conditions.

To start things off, I’d like to give you a brief history of the city and what we have to offer our residents and visitors.

Biloxi began in 1699 as a French settlement — the first capital of the Louisiana Purchase — and quickly grew to a cosmopolitan city of rich ethnic heritage from Europe and Asia. Situated on a peninsula between New Orleans and the Florida panhandle, the city flourished as a seafood capital until the mid- 1900s when Biloxi became a leading tourism destination in the south. It even flirted with gambling in the 1950s and ’60s, offering wide open casinos despite laws to the contrary. Local officials winked at the blinking neon signs and joined thousands of visitors from Louisiana, Alabama and Tennessee at the slot machines and crap tables.

While illegal gambling helped establish Biloxi as a prominent vacation spot, its eventual demise — coupled with the devastation of Hurricane Camille in 1969 — initiated the area’s decline. The nation’s subsequent energy crisis only exacerbated the situation as Texas’ and Louisiana’s once-rich industry went bust and tourists stopped coming from the West.

Biloxi’s bright future turned into a dark nightmare. Hotels suffered from the loss of business and capital with which to upgrade. Jobs vanished. Industrial development had no interest in Biloxi. Government services were pared back while taxes increased.

Something had to give. Eventually it did: Mississippi’s conservative and religious-based objections to gambling crumbled beneath the need for additional tax dollars, and suddenly casinos were legal.

Once again, Biloxi — a city of 50,000 — has a bright future. Eight Las Vegas-style casinos brace Biloxi’s shores from Back Bay to the doorstep of the Gulf of Mexico. With the casinos have come quality motels, prompting our long-standing establishments to upgrade their facilities, and, we’ve received a good share of gaming revenue, increased sales tax collections and, better and higher-paying wages, and, yes, a new feeling of excitement.

Best of all, we believe that the biggest projects are yet to come.

Make no mistake, though: Biloxi is making sure not to rely solely on its new industry. We are not turning our back on the attributes that have come to make Biloxi a nice place to visit and a great place to live.

We’re very proud of the many positives things we offer:

  • We have the world’s longest man-made beach, our No. 1 attraction for visitors and locals.
  • Two-dozen golf courses offering championship golf at reasonable fees.
  • Dozens of deep-sea fishing boats offering half-day, all-day or multi-day fishing trips into the Gulf.
  • Scores of private and public antebellum homes facing the beachfront.
  • Museums that chronicle the Civil War years, the seafood industry, Mardi Gras (it’s as popular here as in New Orleans), and artwork of our own renowned potter, Geroge Ohr, are all attractions favored by locals as well as visitors to Biloxi.
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