H.U.D. Says Port of Gulfport Has Not Created Enough Jobs
When H.U.D. approved the Port of Gulfport restoration project in 2008, it did so with the expectation that 1,300 hundred jobs would be created. To date, only 92 new jobs have been produced and H.U.D., along with the Steps Coalition, are running out of patience. Howard Page, Community Organizer with the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Port, says, "There’s been a lot of promises over the years about what a great job creation project this is, but unfortunately, we have yet to see that job creation at the port."
The Mississippi Development Authority has requested a 30 day extension to the deadline H.U.D. imposed for a job creation report, but the possibility of sanctions is still looming. Jonathan Daniels, Executive Director and C.E.O. of the Mississippi Port Authority, says, "We are not going to put them in a position where they even need to consider that. We are going to meet and exceed our job goals and we’re going to do it in a compliant manner."
The Steps Coalition has been working closely with the port for several years, and says it won’t take much to justify the nearly $600 million investment. Page also says, "They need to meet the requirements by signing some very basic memos that show how many jobs are going to be created and when they are going to be created."
While H.U.D. says the Port of Gulfport has not met its job creation requirements, port officials say they have created many jobs and are on the right track, and that it may be a little premature to be talking about sanctions. Daniels says, "There’s a long way that we need to go. We’re only at 92, but with some of the announcements we will be making in the next few months, those announcements will translate into new jobs."
The loss of Chiquita hurt the port initially, but the construction of the new port terminal is over halfway complete, and the addition of McDermott and Gulf Coast Shipyards, the first new tenants since 1999, brings new industries to the Coast, but the daily operations of the port have slowed progress. Daniels closes, "We have to conduct this operation at the same time that our tenants are actively pursuing their business development options. It limits our development right now, but we’re setting the stage for our growth and their growth in the future."
Daniels says the entire port project will be completed by 2020 and all job creation requirements will be met.
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