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Restoration of Port of Gulfport designed to boost state economy and create jobs

By Rhonda Miller | Published 29 Mar 2011 05:15pm | comments
Donald Evans, President of the local International Longshoremen's Association, at the Port of Gulfport.

The Port of Gulfport was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Restoration projects have kept imports and exports moving through the port. Now major restoration and expansion efforts are designed to boost the state economy and create jobs.

The port is busy with trucks coming and going. Ships from the Caribbean and South America are at the docks.

Joe Conn is the Mississippi State Port Authority’s Director of Port Restoration. He’s telling a group how Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed this working waterfront - and how it’s being rebuilt.

"We’re going to raise this entire elevation up to 25 feet above sea level," Conn said.

Daron Wilson oversees the money details. He’s Project Manager for Port Restoration for the Mississippi Development Authority. Wilson says the rebuilding of the port is making steady progress -- thanks to federal disaster money.

"The port was allocated $570 million for the restoration project that will rebuild and protect the port for the future, as well as for future job creation and positioning the port as an economic development catalyst," Wilson said.

The port created about 2,500 jobs before Katrina. After it’s rebuilt, the port is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs.

But everyone is not enthusiastic about the port restoration project.

Roberta Avila is director of the Steps Coalition.
"The research that we have done on environmental impact shows that there’s going to be huge noise pollution, air pollution," Avila said.

State Port Executive Director Donald Allee says the restoration project is intended to create a competitive 21st Century port.

"We feel like everything we’re doing is aimed at improving the port and absolutely not aimed at destroying the quality of anyone’s life, so we regret if that perception’s out there," Allee said.

The port restoration is expected to take another five to seven years. 

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Donald Evans, President of the local International Longshoremen's Association, at the Port of Gulfport.


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