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Port Leaders Promise Jobs to Secure HUD Funding for Restoration Project

By Rhonda Miller | Published 09 Aug 2012 11:44pm | comments

Leaders of the state port in Gulfport are promising to create 1200 new jobs required to get federal funding for port restoration. But as MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports, officials are on the hot seat to explain why the jobs and the deepening of the channel seem so far in the distance.

Fifty-one percent of the 1,200 new jobs at the Port of Gulfport are designated for low-to-moderate income residents, according to a resolution adopted by the Port Commission yesterday.  That’s to meet the requirements of the $570 million federal grant for the restoration project now in progress. 

“How far down the road will there be jobs for people? That’s what they want to know.”   “Good question."

Joe Conn is director of port restoration.

 “Right now,  there’s 117 people working on the construction project itself.  When the facility is completed, that’s when we’ll generate the additional jobs which our goal, or requirement by HUD is the 2,486 jobs. The permanent jobs won’t be there until we complete the facility and can bring in new tenants and they’ll start moving cargo through the port."

Daron Wilson of the Mississippi Development Authority says the state is sticking by its plan for a competitive port of the future envisioned by former Governor Haley Barbour and Governor Phil Bryant.

"That vision is still accurate. There is going be a large scale expansion of this port. It takes years for that type of expansion to occur and you do that in steps."

But the Army Corps of Engineers in Mobile said this week they have no formal request for deepening the Gulfport channel. Leaders at the port leaders say they’re in an earlier stage of the process with the Corps of Engineers called reconnaissance, but Howard Page of the STEPS Coalition isn’t buying it.

"Discussing the channel deepening, I thought it was good that the Executive Director Don Allee and commissioners like Mr. Simpson acknowledged that the channel deepening is a huge challenge and right now they cannot even get to step one of that. So there really is no process going on right now to deepen the channel, beyond the idea that they want one."

Target date for completion of the restoration from Hurricane Katrina is 2017.

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