Port of Gulfport Fails to Create Promised Jobs

Contributor: Sarah Duffey
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Updated: 11/15/2013 7:30 pm
The U.S. Department of Housing and Development says the Mississippi Development Authority (M.D.A.) failed to comply with federal rules regarding the lack of job creation at the state port. In the months following Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Development Authority chose to take 580 million dollars in federal money that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) had originally supplied to the state to rebuild housing, and instead put it towards rebuilding and expanding the Port of Gulfport. This was allowed because the M.D.A. signed an agreement stating the grant money would be used to create low to moderate income jobs, but so far, that hasn't happened. Glenn Cobb, a member of the Pathways to Port Jobs Committee, says, "They're still spending money. Money is going out every month and nothing is being done. You know when you spend roughly 100 million dollars out of 600 million dollars and you've only created about 50 or so jobs, that's not something we want to hear.”

Cobb and the Pathways to the Port Jobs Committee went in front of the Port Commission to find out why more jobs haven't been created. Cobb also says, "It was told to us that they created something around 1,000 jobs and we went back and we asked the I.L.A., the long shore men, and found out it was only roughly 50 jobs.” Now with H.U.D. holding the M.D.A. and the port responsible, Cobb hopes to see the port respond to job creation more aggressively and if not, lose what's left of the grant money. The port’s failure to create the 5,000 jobs not only hurts the progression of the port, but the whole community. Roberta Avila of the Steps Coalition says "What we've been asking is to have the M.D.A. and the port sit down with the affected community in north Gulfport to have a conversation about how can we have a right size port, a port that can attract jobs." The H.U.D. report released earlier this week echoes an earlier report released last month by the Joint Legislative Committee on performance evaluation and expenditure review. The PEER report, as it is more commonly referred to, was also critical of the port for its lack of adequate job creation.

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