Employment & Economy
South Mississippi is home to multibillion-dollar bases — such as Keesler Air Force Base and Naval Construction Battalion Center in Harrison County — that provide thousands of jobs and award millions in contracts to local businesses, according to the Harrison County Development Commission. The commission estimates the economic impact of the bases in the county is approximately $1 billion.
Other important factors in Harrison County’s economy are its Gulf Coast location — the Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport is the third-busiest container port on the Gulf of Mexico — and convenient access to all markets in North America and Latin America, as well as its foreign trade zone designation. Shipbuilding, aerospace, advanced materials, defense and marine science are all industries drawn to the coast and its deep-water ports. Seafood has been an economic staple of the area for many years.
The largest employers in the county are composed of military bases, health care facilities and casinos, which require a diverse workforce. Harrison County’s central location along Interstate 10 allows it to attract workers from neighboring communities such as New Orleans or Mobile.
In June 2015, Harrison County posted a 6.3 percent unemployment rate, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. According to U.S. Census, the county’s median household income for 2009-2013 was $43,124. The median age in Harrison County is about 35 years old. Median household income is $43,124, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Major transportation routes in Harrison County make the region a key venue for the delivery of goods. U.S. Highway 90 runs along the Gulf of Mexico beaches and local casinos, connecting Biloxi to Gulfport and points westward and eastward. The Biloxi Bay Bridge, and important artery, was rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina and was fully reopened in April 2008. Interstate 10 passes through northern parts of Biloxi, connecting the region to larger hubs of transport, including Phoenix, Los Angles, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans and more.
Perched on the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi Port is one of Mississippi’s four state-owned seaports. Biloxi’s port handles about 3.5 million tons of primarily domestic cargo annually. In addition to moving large quantities of goods, the area around Biloxi Port is home to many casinos, riverboats and outdoor entertainment venues. The Mississippi State Port Authority at Gulfport is the third-busiest container port on the Gulf of Mexico, with convenient access to all markets in North America and Latin America. Shipbuilding, aerospace, advanced materials, defense and marine science are all industries drawn to the coast and its deep-water ports.
The Gulfport-Biloxi metropolitan area’s location directly on the Mississippi Sound has made it a prime spot for seafood and tourism. Fish, oysters, shrimp, crabs — all have been plentiful contributions to the local economy. At the turn of the century, Biloxi had become the Seafood Capital of the World. In the 1920s there were more than 40 seafood factories occupying the cannery districts in the region. With its year-round pleasant climate, sandy beaches, multiple golf courses and more, the region is a perfect vacation destination for those seeking outdoor recreation and relaxation.
In addition to being a vacation destination, Biloxi has a long history with gaming. Though technically illegal in its golden era of the 1940s, open gambling wasn’t officially outlawed until the 1950s. The reintroduction of legal dockside gambling in 1992 transformed the area, bringing millions of dollars of stimulus in the form of casinos, hotels and resorts.
While Harrison County’s proximity to the ocean has been a boon to its economy, the area took an enormous economic hit from damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane-force winds persisted for 17 hours, damaging 90 percent of the buildings along the coast in Biloxi and Gulfport. The region continues to seek a balance between economic recovery and hurricane protection zones; Biloxi has planned redevelopment of commercial properties south of Highway 90.
Military Economic Impact
Keesler Air Force Base and Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport have enjoyed a close collaboration with the surrounding communities since each installation was established. With their total workforce of about 10,600 — including military, civil service and private contractors — the bases had an $1.65 billion economic impact on the surrounding communities in 2014, according to the most recent Keesler Air Force Base Economic Impact Statement.
The National Military Spouse Network, a networking, mentoring and professional development organization, has a wealth of career information at itswebsite. The group aims to help military spouses build a meaningful, sustained career path and offers a library of articles that touch on topics from entrepreneurship, resume tips, self-promotion and more as well as a membership-only discussion forum. The organization also features companies that are military spouse-owned or military spouse-friendly on its Homefront Business Listings page.
On a local level, www.GulfCoastHelpWanted.com allows job seekers to search by job category or by city. The website will also allow you to post your resume so that employers can find you.
Mississippi Department of Employment Security
1235 Echelon Parkway
Jackson, MS 39215
Visit the MDES website for job-seeker services. including job search, job hunting tips, veterans’ services, training and education and job industry data as well as unemployment services.
Mississippi State Personnel Board
210 East Capitol St., Suite 800
Jackson, MS 39201
As the central personnel agency for the state government, the Mississippi State Personnel Board seeks to recruit qualified individuals from all segments of society. Job seekers can search through a comprehensive list of openings online.
1801 23rd Ave.
Gulfport, MS 39501
From the county’s personnel web page, click on “Employment Opportunities” to view open positions and download applications.
City of Biloxi
140 Lameuse St.
Biloxi, MS 39530.
From the city’s human resources web page, click on “Current Job Postings” to connect with job opportunities and the city’s online application process.
City of Gulfport
1410 24th Ave.
Gulfport, MS 39501
The city of Gulfport requires new employees to be residents of one of these counties: George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River or Stone within six months of employment. Visit the employment website to see a list of available positions.
An employment agency can offer posts ranging from high-level administration to warehouse work. Many employers use agencies as their human resources department. Agencies advertise, interview, test and manage payroll. A temp-to-perm arrangement allows the employer and prospective employee to evaluate each other before committing to permanent employment.
Municipal and regional chambers of commerce include local employment agencies in their member lists, along with contact information. See Page 42 for a list of chambers of commerce in Harrison County.
Job Seeker Tips
Always keep your resume up to date and have different resumes that target specific industries and highlight your skills that fit their job descriptions.
Compile several reference lists with a good variety of people and former business associates. Be sure to first ask each if you can use them as references.
Compose a comprehensive, catchy and succinct cover letter of no more than a page (this is no place to ramble). It will introduce you and your desire to work for the company. Have a knowledgeable friend check it for errors, misspelled words, bad grammar, hint at carelessness and indifference. Know what the company does, and highlight skills, work experience and education that apply to the position. Be aware that many employers now accept only online applications so get comfortable with computers.
Be prepared for an interview at any time. When you submit your application, a supervisor may want to talk immediately, or the phone may ring with a hiring director at the other end of the line. Compose — and rehearse — your one-minute self-promotional speech on who you are, an achievement or two and your strengths. It’s not vanity to make a good first impression. If a supervisor wants to know why she should hire you, be ready.
Always follow up with thank-you letters and calls. Even today, a letter as well as the quick-response email will separate you from a surprising number of the other applicants — to your advantage — and keep your name fresh in the interviewer’s mind. Judicious calls display your continued interest. Writing out beforehand what you want to say helps. So does rehearsal.
Be aware that because of the usually huge numbers of applicants, most companies are able to follow up only with candidates in whom they are interested. Don’t take it personally if you’re not notified that you didn’t get the job.
Keesler Air Force Base Civilian Opportunities
Visit USA Jobs to search for Department of Defense jobs at Keesler or Gulfport. You may also visit Gulfport’s human resources office websitefor links to local job listings. Keesler’s human resources office is available online at www.keesler81fss.us/HRO2.html.
For information about service jobs, including openings in lodging, marina, recreation areas and more, (nonappropriated fund positions) call the Keesler 24-hour NAF hotline at 228-377-9055.
Mississippi Small Business Development Center
The Mississippi Small Business Development Center offers small business resources and workshops for those looking to start a business. Visit www.mssbdc.org. Or visit the Gulf Coast Small Business Development Center’s location in Biloxi at 1636 Popps Ferry Road, Suite 227. Call 228-396-8661 for more information.
In 2011, President Barack Obama ordered the creation of BusinessUSA, a one-stop platform for small businesses to get the services they need to make good hires and to grow. The service now offers nearly 200 online classes, videos and chat transcripts; information on how to start a business, obtain financing, look into exporting, expand, find opportunities, learn about health care changes, be aware of taxes and credits, get help with hires, and ferret out regulations and green opportunities. BusinessUSA is especially interested in increasing business ownership among veterans, women, the socially and economically disadvantaged, American Indians and Alaska Natives.