Another year, another myopic and confusing ranking from a free-credit score website.
Gulfport has more than $50 million in downtown development, is home to the Mississippi Aquarium, headquarters for Cruisin’ the Coast, and is one of the top vacation rental markets in the U.S.
This and more dispute the annual listing by WalletHub of the Best and Worst Run Cities in America named Gulfport as number 10 in the “Worst” category. Oddly enough, in a June 2022 article, Wallet Hub ranks Gulfport as the 141st Best Run city in America out of thousands of cities. Looking closer at the actual “metrics” makes the ‘worst’ ranking appear highly suspect.
It didn’t help, when seeking clarification on their findings, that WalletHub officials rejected our request to discuss their research, process, and conclusions.
Unfortunately, for those who don’t recognize “click-bait” for what it is, this type of content occasionally gets passed along by the media as content and time filler.
Even more troubling is the small-print disclaimer stating, “we do not guarantee the accuracy of the information presented through our website.” Fortunately, we’re too busy around here to spend much effort responding to a hack job. Still, after multiple hits, “a lie unchallenged becomes the truth,” and it must be addressed.
“Through a relentless pursuit of opportunities, Gulfport is helping to transform the physical and economic profile of the state’s fastest-growing region.”Mayor Billy Hewes
It does not take long to notice that the Mississippi’s Gulf Coast is experiencing a renewed vibrancy. Gulfport is enjoying a renaissance with over $1 billion in investments in the last decade encompassing commercial, hospitality, medical, military, education, business, and tourism sectors. These developments haven’t happened by accident- it was the resolve of the City Council, Mayor, and staff to create a place that is “Open for Business, and Geared for a Good Time!” It has been a classic team effort, fostering collaboration with public and private sector partners.
Economically, the city of Gulfport is gearing up, and many experts believe it is ready for takeoff. In 2018, Realtor.com named Gulfport one of the top 10 small cities poised to become a powerhouse. Numerous other publishers have highlighted Gulfport’s resilience, quality of place, and cost of living. (i.e., “Best Places to Live” by Money Magazine – 2014; “The Nicest Place to live in Mississippi” Florence Gardens, Gulfport, by Readers Digest – 2020) Gulfport’s economic opportunities have also caught the eye of United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. In 2021, Raimondo visited Gulfport to tour the city and see firsthand what it has to offer.
“What you have in Mississippi is first rate and world class,” she said. “This is my first time to Mississippi and I had several, “I had no idea” moments. That’s a credit to you all.”U.S. Secretary of Commerce , Gina Raimondo
Gulfport has faced many challenges in recent years, including Hurricanes Katrina, Zeta, and Ida, the BP Oil Spill, the national recession, COVID-19, and even Algae Blooms. However, the community has persevered and thrived, thanks to its well-known work ethic, diverse economic base, natural resources, and cultural and historical attractions. And Gulfport and the Gulf Coast are also home to award-winning cuisine, making the Secret Coast a paradise for foodies.
Did you know?
SmartAsset.com ranked Gulfport as the “Most Affordable Beach Town” in the United States for five consecutive years (2016 – 2020). For the last two years, our sister city, Biloxi, has taken the top spot. And this year, the coastal towns of Ocean Springs and Bay St. Louis were ranked #1 & #2 as the” Best Coastal Small Towns in America” by USA Today. Notably, the MS Gulf Coast has consistently appeared in the top-10 rankings for affordability and livability.
Gulfport, or “Seabeetown USA” as it’s also called, is home to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Center Gulfport (NMCB)– one of only two in the country. Our Armed Forces Retirement Home is also one of only two in the country. The Air National Guard Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC) in Gulfport hosts regular training and deployments of Air National Guard units from across America. Moreover, the steady presence of the U.S. Coast Guard in our small craft harbor provides security, safety, and interdiction along our coastal shoreline. Because of our commitment to supporting members of the armed services, the Navy Federal Credit Union, in concert with Operation Homefront, recognized Gulfport (and the surrounding coastal region) in the Top 10 communities as the “Best for Veterans” after service in 2021.
But there’s more to Gulfport.
Gulfport-Biloxi metro ranks as a top spot in the US for vacation rentals (2022)
$50 million mixed-use development will add 200 luxury apartments in the center of downtown Gulfport
Gulfport Harbor Lights Festival Named the Most Magical Show in Mississippi
(2018, 2019, 2020, 2022)
Ocean Aero moves from San Diego into a 67,000-square-foot warehouse at the Port of Gulfport (2021)
USA Today “Best New Attractions” (2020)
#4 Mississippi Aquarium
Cruisin’ The Coast voted the #1 Car Show in the nation by USA Today (2020,21)
Gulfport is home to the state’s only accredited Public Works Department, which, in addition to regular infrastructure operations and maintenance, is currently managing 100 miles of road resurfacing. This is in concert with a $20 million federal BUILD grant project that will link our city’s northern and southern regions with a flyover across Interstate 10. And Gulfport’s innovative First Responders play leadership roles at the highest levels, achieving the highest community fire rating in Mississippi.
Softball & Baseball All-Star World Series begin at Gulfport Sportsplex (2022)
Condos. Restaurants. Boutiques. Why Gulfport is a hot spot for new Coast development (2022)
Mississippi is all in on the Gulf Coast’s innovative Blue Economy (2021)
City of Gulfport approves 17 million dollars to pave 100 miles of roadway (2021)
Gulfport breaks ground on new pedestrian, bike, and tram bridge (2022)
Gulfport’s schools have a long history of educational excellence. Forty-one million dollars in renovations to multiple facilities, most notably Gulfport High School, has transformed Gulfport schools recently. As a result, the high school functions more like a college campus, with state-of-the-art classrooms, labs, and industry-specific career-path academies. In addition, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College (MGCCC), the University of Southern Mississippi (USM), and William Carey College all serve South Mississippi.
Gulfport is often lauded for its municipal leadership at the individual and organizational levels and has received the following recent awards:
- 2022 – Mississippi Municipal League (MML) Best Overall – Excellence in Public Works over 10,000 Population
- 2020 – MML Best Overall – Excellence in Public Works over 10,000 Population
- 2020 – MML Best Overall – Best Overall – Excellence in Planning & Economic Development
- 2019 – US Conference of Mayors (USCM) – City Livability Award
- 2018 – USCM – City Livability Award
- 2017 – MML Best Overall – Excellence in Planning & Economic Development
- 2017 – Mississippi Main Street Association – Innovation of Main Street Award
- 2017 – Main Street America – Innovation of Main Street Award
- 2016 – American Public Works Association (APWA) – Department Accreditation
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, many neighborhoods were ravaged by flooding. The Bayou View West neighborhood in the 34th St. area repurposed 40 acres to bring to Gulfport a Community Garden, a Dog Park, a Nature Trail and Outdoor Classroom, a 17-acre Disc Golf Course and a 21-acre Bike Trail, all located at the new Brickyard Bayou Park. The new Brickyard Bayou Park has been an uplifting project to the surrounding neighborhood, offering amenities not found anywhere else in Gulfport or on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and creatively conforming to FEMA’s regulation. The goal of the park is to offer a completely unique tourist attraction that will have a positive economic impact on the community, as well as offer an improved quality of life through healthy living and educational activities for all of Gulfport’s residents and visitors.– United States Conference of Mayor’s
On The Horizon
Gulfport is the beneficiary of a federal transit grant for constructing the CTA transit center and public Tram, Bicycle, and Pedestrian Bridge over U.S. Highway 90, thanks to a partnership with the Coast Transit Authority (CTA). This pivotal project connecting the Mississippi Aquarium campus to Mississippi’s Front Yard – the green space of Jones Park and Gulfport’s Municipal Harbor – is now a reality because of the unwavering determination and vision of local, state, and federal funding partners.
Gulfport’s Job Corps Center has been helping our youth in low-mod areas for over fifty years, providing job skills training and education for generations. A recently-approved $43 million Department of Labor renovation project – incorporating elements of the historically significant 33rd Avenue High School – is underway, with work scheduled to be completed by 2024.
Since 1898, the historic seaport of Gulfport has been the center of commerce in South Mississippi and is home to multiple banks, law firms, businesses, and medical centers. Gulfport is also home to the headquarters of Mississippi Power Company and Hancock Whitney Bank. New investments have been injected into our economy consistently over the last ten years, showcasing a balance of medical, military, professional, tourism, retail, and entertainment components. Because of our coastal culture, diverse heritage, and more than a little because of our proximity to New Orleans, our restaurants are second-to-none, including one of the fastest growing restaurant chains in the country, the Half Shell Oyster House, based here in Gulfport.
The Mississippi Port at Gulfport is building a $600 million state-of-the-art port facility that will also be the Gulf-of-Mexico home to the nation’s next primary maritime Center of Excellence: The USM Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise (opening 2023). This research and development magnet will partner with the private sector, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO), focusing on uncrewed marine systems and blue technology innovation. OceanAero is the first major private sector tenant to commit to this new initiative and is relocating from San Diego to Gulfport. A 67,000-square-foot research and manufacturing warehouse is currently under construction at the State Port that will be OceanAero’s new Gulfport home.
Gulfport Town Center
A $50 million mixed-use development with 200 luxury apartments is the latest downtown housing project under design. In addition, new housing starts are popping up all over the city, and short- and long-term rental markets are strong. Gulfport’s housing market is thriving but boasts a median housing cost still around half the national average.
Centennial Plaza, a $90 million 50-acre beachfront development, is bringing new life to what was a blighted property with its two boutique hotels, water park, and frequent festivals. It’s also “Cruise Central” for America’s top classic car show – Cruisin’ the Coast. Centennial Plaza has become a game changer for beachgoers and destination weddings!
First-time visitors to Mississippi, often conditioned by stereotypes about the southern US, can be surprised by what the Coast offers. A bold public-private partnership began years ago, resulting in the Mississippi Aquarium arising from the remains of a church property that Hurricane Katrina destroyed. The Harbor Lights Winter Festival, attracting over 100,000 attendees between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, has been featured in multiple movies and named the Most Magical Show in Mississippi. Recently, the Gulfport Sportsplex hosted the 2021 SWAC fast-pitch softball tournament. The facility, which added professional-quality artificial turf, has expanded to become a youth sports destination and hosts year-round baseball, softball, and soccer tournaments with an annual economic impact of over $20 million.
We’re not done yet!
There’s more work to do, of course. But, that is a hallmark of all dynamic communities. A city doesn’t experience Gulfport’s consistent levels of investment, interest, and success by accepting the status quo or dwelling at the bottom of the barrel. With various cultures and cuisines, top-rated museums, an appealing year-round climate, easy transit times, barrier islands, miles and miles of sand beach, and steady ocean breezes, Gulfport is a hidden gem on Mississippi’s Secret Coast. And the only way to experience it is to see it personally.
That’s the only way to have the “I had no idea” realization instead of perpetuating prejudices that have no place in today’s South Mississippi. Whatever the case, we’ll stick with our proven track record. In one respect, we thank WalletHub for its persistent bullying. It has given us the opportunity to, once again, tell our story – and it’s a pretty good one!
We invite you to come to see it for yourself!