Breakfast with the Mayor

Here are the speaking points that Mayor A.J. Holloway used for his presentation to the Biloxi Chamber Breakfast with the Mayor audience at Biloxi Regional Medical Center on Nov. 17, 2010:

Glad to be here today. Want to give you an update on where we are today and maybe answer a few questions.

We had a great turnout a couple weekends ago for the three-day celebration to open phase one of the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art. It was a huge success, and we had Biloxi stories published in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. We also had some great news with the announcement that the Knight Foundation would provide three million dollars to complete construction of the final two buildings on the campus.

One of the things that we continue to watch is our revenue streams — particularly gaming and sales taxes, which make up nearly 60 percent of our annual operating revenue.

I have a little good news to report.

In gaming revenue, we’ve had four positive months this calendar year — June, August, September and October.

That’s the first time we’ve had four positive months since 2008.

This tells me that we’re doing a little better, but we’re still not out of the woods. Let me put things in context for you: In the past 33 months, we’ve had only 7 positive months for gaming revenue.

Sales tax, on the other hand, remains flat.

I think we still have some rough times ahead.

I think that’s what you saw in the last election. It was all about this fear that people have about the amount of money that’s being spent on stimulus packages, bailouts and the healthcare fears, and the economy in general.

Here in Biloxi, just like in Jackson, we don’t have the luxury of just printing more money when we run low.

In the way of development, we have more than 200 million dollars worth of construction either underway, in the works or recently completed in Biloxi.

I’m talking about things like the 45 million-dollar Palace Casino expansion, the 30 million-dollar Timber Creek estates subdivision in Woolmarket, or the 16 million-dollar Kroc Center that’s under construction at Yankie Stadium, or the 14 million-dollar Bay Cove Condominiums.

Developers have purchased property for 120-unit hotel on the site east of the Church of Redeemer site. And of course, RW Development opened the South Beach hotel and condos last month.

Some of you may be familiar with the Shaggy’s restaurant and bar at the harbor in Pass Christian. Well, there’s talk of one coming to west beach in Biloxi, and, of course, there’s a half-shell oyster house restaurant in the works for downtown Biloxi.

Tomorrow, the new Walmart in west Biloxi will be going before the planning commission. I think this is going to be a catalyst to more growth near Edgewater Mall. It’s been there so long that some people take Edgewater for granted. I don’t. Do you realize that we’re talking about a MILLION square feet of retail under one roof?

Something else I think people take for granted is the tremendous impact of the military community here in Biloxi.

Keesler Air Force Base, one of the Air Force’s largest technical training centers, has completed the largest military housing project in the history of the Air Force, representing a total of 1,028 housing units, primarily in west Biloxi. The base has dedicated a 65,000-square foot Bay Breeze Event Center, and Keesler Medical Center remains one of the leading research and development facilities in the Air Force. The base is also the site of the Air Force’s new cyber schoolhouse.

The Veterans Administration Medical Center in Biloxi is seeing $150 million in improvements. Among the improvements expected to be completed in a year: new facilities to care for the blind; a 100,000-square-foot mental-health center; a 105,000-square-foot, 96-bed extended-care facility addition; a 1,000-car parking garage; primary and specialty clinics; outpatients surgery facilities and others. Another $150 million in improvements – including a large laundry, kitchen and other facilities – are in the offing.

We’re also making great progress on our work to rebuild and restore city facilities.

We’ll have the new visitors center open for Memorial Day, to kick off the summer.

The library and civic center will be open in June.

I think these projects will generate a lot of activities. They are beautiful buildings, with ample parking and all of the amenities. In fact, we’re going to be working with some of the smaller non-casino hotels to make sure they are aware of this additional meeting space in east Biloxi.

We’re wrapping up work on the Old Brick House, the Lighthouse Pier, the Creole Cottage, the Fire Museum and other projects.

I hope to begin construction by the end of the year on the new fishing bridge at Point Cadet, and have it completed in early 2012.

I also hope to begin construction on the new bait shop and fuel dock at the harbor in January.

And something that we’ve been dealing on for some time, I think we ought to be able to resume work on our massive 355 million-dollar infrastructure project. We should begin awarding some of the contracts in the first quarter of 2011.