With the announcement Wednesday of Chiquita Banana leaving Gulfport, the port is looking to move forward with revised plans for their restoration project. Thursday, the Mississippi Port Authority held a workshop to discuss how Section 3 businesses can participate in bidding for the remaining contracts. The goal of the port restoration project is to not only bring in more tenants and tonnage to the port, but to bring more jobs to the City of Gulfport. To ensure that no one gets left in the dust, the project's funding requires a percentage of all work be awarded to low income residents and businesses.
Fontello Brown is one of these workers recently awarded a contract for landscaping at the port. Brown says, “It started out as a landscaping company about 15 years ago and we diverged into building construction. So we're a very diverse company.” Brown qualifies as a Section 3 business because at least 30% of his employees are Section 3 residents, meaning they live in public housing or are low income. The Port Authority encourages anyone interested in bids for the port restoration project to consider becoming a Section 3 business to receive priority in the bidding process.
Joe Conn, Director of Port Restoration, says, “Our prime contractors can become Section 3 qualified if they do enough of their work through Section 3 subs. So even the large contractors are looking to hire smaller Section 3 contractors.” The Mississippi Port Authority will continue to hire Section 3 businesses in the port restoration project, but it won't stop there. Once new tenants come in, they'll be encouraged to hire Section 3 businesses on their own construction projects as well. Conn also says, “Then in the future, any tenant that's working on the port, they will also be looking to hire Section 3 personnel in their offices or doing their work.”
The next big bid will be for a major west pier construction project. The bid is estimated to be between $50 million and $70 million with many opportunities for Section 3 subcontractors.