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Dole Urges Port To Speed Up Restoration Project

By Evelina Burnett | Published 05 Jun 2014 04:05pm | comments
Dole mascots Bobby Banana and Penelope Pineapple were on hand for a celebration marking Dole's 50th anniversary as a tenant at the Port of Gulfport.

Dole’s chief executive says he wants to expand his company’s operations at the Port of Gulfport, but says the current restoration project is moving too slow. The company’s been a tenant at the state port for 50 years.

The crowd at a celebration marking Dole’s 50th anniversary in Gulfport got on its feet to welcome the company’s 91-year-old chief executive, David Murdock, who laid out some of the company’s expansion plans and then urged the port to get a move on its $570 million restoration project.

"I came here last night, flew in from my home in California, because I wanted to see what was going on here," Murdock said. "To me it seems like it's going damn slow. I'm anxious to get this place finished so we can continue to expand here."

A new $30 million dollar terminal for Dole is part of that restoration, and Governor Phil Bryant says he’s on the same page when it comes to moving the project along.

"One of the things we did with our new plan as we came in was to cut two years off the construction time for this," Bryant said. "We did away with raising it 25 feet, started talking about dredging. We're talking now with the United States Congress and U.S. Senate; we think we'll have the ability to do that. But cutting two years off the time was critical."

Critics of the state’s handling of the port expansion have also asked why the project, intended to create jobs after Hurricane Katrina, is not complete and hasn’t created the promised jobs - almost nine years after the storm. Jonathan Daniels has been the port’s executive director for just about a year, but he says it’s understandable.

"An action plan that was published and approved in 2007 did not see money released until 2011, so six years after Katrina, the money was finally released for the project," Daniels said. "If you look at what's been done in the last three years, we've made remarkable progress."

Daniels says the Dole terminal, which will expand its presence in Gulfport from about 25 to 40 acres, should be done in 2016. Dole has a lease in Gulfport through 2017 but Daniels says he hopes to come to a longer term agreement as the details of the new terminal are finalized. 

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Dole mascots Bobby Banana and Penelope Pineapple were on hand for a celebration marking Dole's 50th anniversary as a tenant at the Port of Gulfport.


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