BP grant administrator urges more Hancock oil spill claims
By ELLIS C. CUEVAS
Mar 21, 2014, 18:36
Lazy Magnolia co-owner Mark Henderson, right, presents a token of appreciation to Patrick A. Juneau. At left is Steve Benvenutti, Bay Rotary president.
The Hancock Chamber of Commerce and Bay St. Louis Rotary Club on Wednesday hosted Patrick Juneau, claims administrator for the Deepwater Horizon Claims Center, during the Rotary meeting at the Bay Waveland Yacht Club.
Juneau urged anyone who is eligible for a claim to file. The final deadline to file claims is April 22.
“In Mississippi, 31,490 claims have been filed to date and 5,919 of these were eligible to receive funding,” he said. Juneau also said that the claims process will continue uninterrupted.
“We all recognize the devastation in the past, and we do not yet know what the future holds so this is why we must rebuild the system through the recovery process,” said Juneau. “Let’s finish what we set out to do.”
During the meeting, Juneau also met representatives from the 12 Mississippi Coast organizations who collectively received $4,070,350 in first round grants last year from the Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund, which he administers.
“The Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund provided critical resources for the Coast to bring together the industry to create jobs and increase prosperity for all of our citizens and tourism businesses,” said Tish Williams, executive director of the Hancock Chamber of Commerce. “We value the partnerships these grants have facilitated, and the regional cooperation it has ignited to produce significant results for our businesses.”
Williams said tourism is the Coast’s primary economic engine and one of the most important for Mississippi. In the 2013 Travel and Tourism Economic Contribution Report just released by the Mississippi Development Authority’s Tourism Division, travel and tourism expenditures by visitors to the three Mississippi Coast counties are estimated at over $1.7 billion, employing more than 24,000. State and local taxes and fees attributed to tourism during 2013 on the Coast totaled more than $190 million.
On behalf of the tourism industry, Williams expressed appreciation to Juneau and provided an update on how the tourism projects that were funded impacted Coast businesses.
Through the Hancock Community Development Foundation, managed by the Hancock Chamber of Commerce, the business resource center provided technical assistance with a focus on tourism and seafood businesses.
The Foundation was also able to market the top 14 events in Hancock County to drive day tripper and overnight stays.
The new Hancock My Home second home / retirement relocation campaign was also launched to promote home sales, and restore customer markets for area businesses. The campaign features an interactive website and Facebook page: www.hancockmsmyhome.com with new branding, Life Just Got Better.
It also arms realtors with the tools they need to close the sales, which include realtor login and lead sharing, printed and online resource guides and rack brochures, social media sites and digital banner advertising.
Myrna Green, Manager of the Hancock Tourism Development Bureau said the Gulf Promotional Grant provided funding necessary to expand the website, develop and expand tourism events, and enhance existing attractions like the new Mardi Gras museum. “The results were truly spectacular, from record breaking attendance at events and festivals to substantial increases in lodging and other tourism-related tax receipts,” she said. Thanks to the grant, the Magnolia Money program was continued, incentivizing visitors to increase spending with local tourism businesses and the INFINITY Science Center.
To increase visitation to the Coast, the INFINITY Science Center received a grant to launch an outdoor and digital marketing campaign.
At the close of the first year of operation, more than 65,000 people visited INFINITY, doubling the attendance of INFINITY’s predecessor, Stennisphere. At INFINITY, an on-site visitor promotion was established to market the Coast’s gulf fresh seafood and bounce visitors to Coast restaurants and seafood businesses.
During the 2012-2013 fiscal year, the MS Gulf Coast Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) was financially unable to implement much needed efforts to recover from the impact that the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill had on tourism. The reduction in income was a result of lower hotel sales tax collections in Harrison County which provided 100% of the funding for the CVB. “The $500,000 grant received from the Seafood and Promotion Tourism Fund gave the CVB the opportunity to market to a lost target segment, the Midwest golf and snowbird customer, to re-introduce the Coast tourism product as a desirable area to visit,” said Crystal Johnson, Acting Manager / Director of Sales for the Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA) received a grant to produce a book promoting tourism on the Coast. “We published The Mississippi Gulf Coast and Neighboring Sites, a lovely hardcover edition featuring 25 Gulf Coast sites with photos, available at some bookstores and other outlets across the Coast,” said Philip L. Levin, MD, GCWA President.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast Charter Boat Captains Association used the grant to put on a month long Charter Fishing Tournament branded as the “Captain’s Deep Sea Challenge,” which was successful in helping to rejuvenate business lost as a result of the oil spill. Mikel Gusa of the Association said the advertising campaign succeeded in drawing nearly 800 participants to the tournament from 31 states and three foreign countries. “The upcoming tournament this summer, funded by a second grant, will be used to continue to restore the charter boat business,” he said.
Other grant recipients include: Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum of Biloxi, Mississippi Gulf Coast Attractions Association, Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, Mississippi Hotel & Lodging Association, Ship Island Excursions, and the Pass Christian Main Street Foundation.