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GCBC Laser Focused, Synergized for Coast Economic Growth

It’s been 15 years, but economic data shows the Miss. Gulf Coast is still struggling to fully recover from three major events—Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession, and the BP oil spill.

Embracing a positive outlook are Coast CEOs and business owners hoping to propel the region ahead to the future. Collectively, they’re rolling up their sleeves and going to work.  Enter the Gulf Coast Business Council, a 300-member strong group that’s been around since 2005, born in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The business group stays very focused, says Ashley Edwards, president, and CEO of the GCBC.  “The last couple of years for us has really been characterized by a lot of strategic planning.  We work with stakeholders across the coast to help identify what our regional priorities are, especially considering we now have access to a lot of funding resources that we didn’t have before as a result of the oil spill dollars and things that are coming here.”

The GCBC is a private sector-led, collaborative group of business, economic and policy thought leaders from across the three coastal counties of the Gulf Coast region.  As key decision-makers in their respective fields, their charter is providing a united voice for economic transformation and sustainable growth.

The GCBC is working off of final recommendations from a commissioned study last year, the Coastal Mississippi Investment Opportunities Analysis.

Edwards says folks can really look forward to the next couple of years when the council starts putting in place foundational structures for implementation to a lot of these plans they’ve put out. “Planning is only a beginning and the real hard work comes in implementing these plans. And so we’re really laser-focused on being able to produce measurable, quantifiable, tangible results as a result of the work that we’ve been doing to ensure that these plans can be implemented. Then we can start to see the benefits of that and our day to day lives. If we’re successful, then we may some real generational impacts. Not just in the short term, but in really long terms across the coast.”

Another unique aspect of the GCBC is the synergy it brings to the table. “Business leaders really understand that you have to think regionally, said Edwards. They understand that what’s good for Gulfport is good for Biloxi. What’s good for Pass Christian is good for Pascagoula and so on. It really is a rising tide that lifts all boats, all vessels. And so what the business council has tried to do,” Edwards continued, “is to really become a thought leader in making sure that we are focusing on regional solutions that can benefit every city and every county in our region. Even though we have very unique identities and challenges, there are also a lot of commonalities where we find our strength and our opportunities.”

Additional goals the council has its target on is recruiting more business leaders and leadership development.  “The GCBC represents in terms of membership about 35 to 40% of all the jobs on the coast,” said Edwards. “That means there’s a whole lot of business owners out there who aren’t involved in what we’re doing. We want to bring as many people that want to be a part of the solution to the table.  Attracting the right talent pool is another goal, and just as important, says Edwards.   “We know that we’ve got to constantly cultivate future business leaders who will become those next generation of CEOs that will lead boards, commissions and community collaboratives,” he said. “When you combine that with the other goals we’re focused on, that really defines what our mission is as an organization and what we’re trying to accomplish here on the coast.”

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Written by Jerry Taranto

Jerry Taranto is an Air Force veteran, who has served more than 25 years as a public affairs specialist both in uniform and as a government employee.
He has extensive experience in media relations, social media, community/congressional relations, and communication planning.
Jerry, a Biloxi, Miss. native, has a passion for understanding the nuances of local community and governmental relations. He considers himself a ‘savy networker’ and loves to showcase the extraordinary stories of local residents and business members who live and work on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
He is a graduate of Leadership Mississippi, Leadership Gulf Coast, and a current executive board member of the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce. He holds a B.S. marketing degree from Western Governor’s University, UT.
Jerry considers himself a “forever” student, and is always seeking new adventures, challenges and expanding his social circles to include people from all cultural and business backgrounds. He currently lives in Biloxi and is the proud dad of two Boston Terriers. Reach out to [email protected] to connect!


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