Following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010—the largest maritime oil spill in US history—the state of Mississippi was awarded $750 million to help offset economic damages in coastal communities. In 2018, the Mississippi legislature passed a law (Senate Bill 2002) committing 75 percent of the remaining BP settlement payments to the Gulf Coast Restoration Fund. Setting up a structure for evaluating and awarding funding requests was a priority for leaders in the six-county region eligible to apply for funding (George, Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Pearl River, and Stone counties).
Led by the Gulf Coast Business Council and Gulf Coast Community Foundation, community leaders in Mississippi’s coastal counties engaged TIP Strategies to prepare an Opportunity Analysis. To evaluate the region’s current competitive position and identify its most promising opportunities, TIP reviewed economic and demographic data, identified sectors that represent the best potential for expansion, and gathered insights from regional stakeholders. The resulting document outlined an investment framework to direct the use of settlement funds, along with an organizational model for evaluating and selecting funding applications. In addition, TIP provided recommendations to guide future economic development activities, including three priority investment areas (expanding telecommunications infrastructure, encouraging downtown mixed-use development, and strengthening the innovation economy) and four target sectors (aircraft and aerospace, maritime industries and “blue economy” activities, hospitality and tourism, and education and health institutions).