Despite new tenant, federally funded port struggles to create jobs

JUST ADD JOBS: The Port of Gulfport received $580 million after Hurricane Katrina for rebuilding efforts.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

For the federally funded Port of Gulfport, it was a lose-win scenario.

The port on the Mississippi Sound gained a new tenant with the announcement Monday of McDermott International’s arrival at the facility.

The offshore services company and the port signed a 10-year lease agreement that will build a spoolbase pipe fabrication facility on the east pier that will bring 100 jobs.

The good news comes on the heels of some bad, as long-time tenant Chiquita took its fruit import business to the port in New Orleans after the state of Louisiana gave the company $15 million in incentives to relocate. The company had 20 permanent employees in Gulfport.

SLOW PACE: Despite receiving $580 million in federal funds from Housing and Urban Development, the Port of Gulfport’s expansion won’t be complete until 2016.

After Hurricane Katrina wrecked the port in 2005, the federal government stepped in with a $580 million grant from Housing and Urban Development to rebuild and renovate the port. The project is not expected to finish until 2016, 11 years after Katrina struck.

The Biloxi Sun Herald reported, the port is under fire from HUD for violating job reporting standards. The newspaper reported the port has created only 814 jobs. When the project was announced in 2010, the port’s website said it employed 1,200 and the renovation eventually would result in the hiring of 1,200 more once the renovation was complete.

With the loss of the Chiquita facility and the addition of McDermott, the facility is up to 894 jobs.

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@watchdog.org

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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