More than 99 percent of U.S. businesses are small businesses, making them the lifeblood of our communities’ economies. During this National Small Business Month, we’re proud and honored to welcome the Mississippi Small Business Development Center (MS-SBDC) Gulf Coast Business Resource Center—an invaluable asset for our Mississippi Gulf Coast small business community—to our Hancock Whitney headquarters in downtown Gulfport.
Housed on the eighth floor of our historic Gulfport Building and sponsored by us, the MS-SBDC Gulf Coast Business Resource Center provides local small business owners, potential owners, and entrepreneurs one-on-one counseling, workshops, technical assistance, and international trade expertise. The full-time staff includes trained MS-SBDC business counselors and an international trade specialist, with plans to grow the staff as the center welcomes other collaborative partners to this go-to hub for business resources in South Mississippi.
Part of Our History
We were founded in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in 1899. Three decades later, at the height of the Great Depression, we opened our first Gulfport location at the request of local business and community leaders concerned that other banks’ failures had left Gulfport’s people without a safe place to put their money. By 1939 the Gulfport Building—the very place where the MS-SBDC center now operates—became our corporate headquarters. Today, we’re the largest bank headquartered in Mississippi and one of America’s strongest, safest banks, but our corporate home is still in downtown Gulfport, now in the 15-story Hancock Whitney Plaza tower built adjacent to the Gulfport Building in 1981.
Opening the MS-SBDC Business Resource Center in our Gulfport Building marks a milestone for our small business community and for our company. Locating the center on our corporate campus creates a concentration of resources specifically designed to help small businesses succeed.
MS-SBDC is sponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, so the center’s opening also constitutes a full-circle celebration of our long, productive relationship with SBA. In good times, we’ve worked closely with SBA to help small businesses thrive. In the wakes of disasters affecting our area and local businesses, we’ve rolled up our sleeves with SBA to get much-needed money to people and businesses working together to move forward.
Representatives from the Mississippi SBDC, Hancock Whitney, and City of Gulfport symbolically cut the ribbon on the new Business Resource Center in the Hancock Whitney Historic Gulfport Building.
Recharging Economies after Crises
After Hurricane Camille devastated the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969, we offered SBA open access to several floors of the Gulfport Building. From that building, SBA processed and paid the first disaster recovery loan after Camille.
Thirty-six years later, when Hurricane Katrina wiped away much of our community’s business footprint, we again partnered with SBA to ensure people and businesses had access to disaster recovery funds they needed to recover and rebuild from that catastrophic storm. Within a month of Katrina, we strategically located Small Business Development Center loan centers throughout our six-county coastal region and became one of the first area financial institutions to proactively endorse the SBA Gulf Opportunity Pilot Loan (GO Loan) Program to streamline, centralize, and expedite SBA guaranty authorization and loan approval for small businesses in declared disaster areas.
In 2020, as the global pandemic wrought havoc on Americans’ lives and livelihoods, our bankers worked around the clock with SBA to process more than 13,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling more than $2.4 billion to help businesses across the greater Gulf Coast keep doors open and people paid. Seventy-five percent of those PPP loans were under $150,000, indicating the majority of approved loans went to small businesses fighting hard to stay afloat.
Helping Small Business Thrive
In the coming months, MS-SBDC will help us facilitate our Small Business Matters Entrepreneurship Platform in Mississippi. Small Business Matters is our small business development program designed to help existing small business owners prosper through resource partners, coaching, and guidance based on four pillars of success: Growth, Funding, Marketing, and Managing.
Our Hancock Whitney family celebrates the Mississippi Small Business Development Center Business Resource Center coming to our headquarters. We look forward to continuing collaborations with the Mississippi Small Business Development Center through The University of Mississippi School of Business Administration to create even more opportunities for people and the communities we serve.
Together, we can foster the economic success that makes life better for the people who call our region home and keeps our communities strong.