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Moss Point, Mississippi case study in rural economic disaster & recovery

The authors gratefully acknowledge the invaluable assistance of Linda Holden, Economic Developer for the City of Moss Point, Mississippi; civic volunteer Monica Battle; members of the Board of Aldermen; and the very many other Moss Point citizens who
contributed their advice.

pulling together

Photo above: following the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, donors in Vermont arranged for a truckload of pumpkins to be delivered to Moss Point, Mississippi, so the city could celebrate its traditional Fall festival. Residents still recall this gesture as a huge psychological boost to the community. (Photo by Mark M. Miller 2005.)

Overview of the Moss Point case study

Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, state and federal representatives of USDA Rural Development contacted the University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Department of Economic & Workforce Development for support in disaster recovery and redevelopment efforts along the state’s Gulf Coast. We identified the City of Moss Point, Mississippi as a community with both particularly great challenges and great opportunities in these circumstances. As such, we also believed that Moss Point could serve as a model for other moderate-sized communities in the disaster region and beyond.

Mark Miller, professor of economic development and geography, was selected as USM’s principal liaison with the City of Moss Point for this project. Moss Point traditionally has the lowest income population in the Mississippi Gulf Coast region. The city has suffered major economic setbacks over the past decade, with the loss of three major industries, followed by a domino effect of retail and other business losses. The Moss Point population, approximately 14,000 and declining before Katrina, is about 75 percent African American. Many neighborhoods in the community—especially the city’s poorest neighborhoods, built on low-lying terrain—suffered extensive wind and flooding damage from Katrina. At the same time, however, Moss Point displays a high spirit of civic pride, unity, and civic engagement. The city’s Center for Compatible Development has demonstrated exceptional leadership in establishing a vision and master plan for Moss Point’s redevelopment as a center for ecotourism and other forms of sustainable development.

Further, Mississippi’s Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding, and Renewal developed broad guidelines for the state’s Gulf Coast region, including extensive plans specific to the City of Moss Point. This provided Moss Point with a major head start over other small communities in terms of the planning and architectural design process. We believed that Moss point can best capitalize on available resources and expertise at the state and national levels by continuing to build on this existing, high-profile process, which was initiated and strongly supported by the governor.

The purpose of the cooperative agreement with USDA Rural Development wais to secure the necessary resources to make Moss Point recovery, rebuilding, and renewal an effective and equitable reality for all of the residents of the community: building and expanding upon existing plans from the Governor’s Commission to make these plans compatible with the values and best interests of all Moss Point’s citizens. Funding from USDA rural development provided us with the support and resources, initially, to develop planning, organizational, and communication capabilities at the local level, giving all residents and interests of Moss Point a shared voice and ownership in the recovery and redevelopment process.

In addition, Moss Point can provide an excellent case study for other “communities in crisis,” which have received a severe blow from natural disaster, economic setback (such as a major industry closing), or other devastating setback. Moss Point can provide a particularly good model for effectively bringing together “bottom up” community-based planning with “top down” resources and expertise from state and federal agencies and other organizations. As a cooperative agreement, USDA Rural Development offers unequaled expertise in planning and development for small communities, as well as grant development assistance to guide Moss Point in securing necessary resources.

Moss Point in-depth case study
(text reprinted by permission from the journal of Applied Research in Economic Development, volume 3, issue 1, 2006)

Moss Point and Katrina video

Katrina and Moss Point, by University of Southern Mississippi Honors College Geography 101 students, 2008

Moss Point research articles from the journal of
Applied Research in Economic Development

The ARED Case Study: Disaster and Recovery in Moss Point, Mississippi Mark M. Miller (2006)

The ARED Case Study: Responses to “Disaster and Recovery in Moss Point, Mississippi”
Babu P. George, Gary R. Webb, and Garrett Harper (2006)

Documents and plans resulting from the Mississippi Governor's Commission-sponsored planning initiatives

Steven Schukraft, et al. 2005. HOK Planning Group: Results of the first Moss Point planning charrette process.

Steven Schukraft, et al. 2005. HOK Planning Group: MOSS POINT MINI-CHARRETTE FOR THE RIVERFRONT A Follow-up to the Mississippi Renewal Forum.

Steven Schukraft, et al. 2006. HOK Planning Group: Downtown Renewal Plan: City of Moss Point, Mississippi.

Moss Point oral history video project

Videos by University of Southern Mississippi Honors College Geography 101 students, 2008. These videos were created as part of USM's continuing work with Moss Point's redevelopment initiatives, to help foster community identity and pride, especially in the city's African-American and low-income neighborhoods.