The answer: tourism, something which state and local tourism officials say is much more than just a free ride.
In fact, "Last year we had 33 million visitors from around the world to visit this state. The impact on the state was 5.7 billion dollars, tourism dollars. That's 90,000 visitors a day," says Craig Ray with the Tourism Division of the Mississippi Development Authority.
Figures were also impressive here locally.
"In Meridian and Lauderdale County alone, tourists accounted for $110.6 million in the last fiscal year. So granted, if we didn't have tourism we'd be $110 million less than we are," says Lisa Holifield with the Meridian/Lauderdale County Tourism Bureau.
Last year alone more than 370,000 visitors registered at the Welcome Center in Toomsuba. Of those, more than 3,000 were from other countries. It's figures like these which officials say reaffirms the importance of tourism for our area.
"We have to promote tourism," says Holifield, "because we're receiving the benefits of that money from the sales tax. So, we would be crazy not to want to promote tourism in our area."
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