GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A port jobs initiative voided by the Mississippi Development Authority means 1,000 jobs are no longer coming to South Mississippi.
The official announcement that MDA voided its agreement with Edison Chouest and its subsidiary Topship isn’t that much of a surprise. We heard rumblings a few months ago the jobs once promised at the port weren’t coming here.
It turns out, the deal to use incentives to develop property on Gulfport’s Industrial Seaway actually fell apart December 31, 2018. Edison Chouest’s agreement with Mississippi to use this site expired that day. Without a contract, the state voided its part of the deal.
The promise of new jobs at the port was made by Governor Bryant in 2016. His administration negotiated an incentive laced package with Edison Chouest called Project Crawfish. We learned that day the Louisiana company would open Top Ship on the Industrial Seaway in Gulfport and in the process, create a thousand jobs for the Port of Gulfport. But that never happened.
A statement issued from the Mississippi Development Authority Friday said, “The state agreed to give the company $11 million in grants and incentives, as well as a $25 million grant from the Katrina CDBG fund. Topship was not able to produce the investment or the jobs as previously announced. The state statute authorizing the incentives expired on Dec. 31, 2018, which voided the agreement. Topship did not receive any state funds for this project.”
Port of Gulfport’s Executive Director Jonathan Daniels stressed that Topship (and Edison Chouest) remains an active tenant at the port. The company made all of its lease payments and therefore is a tenant in good standing.
"The project they originally proposed on the site didn’t materialize,” Daniels said, noting it fell apart because the oil industry tanked, and the project was heavily based on ships linked to oil companies.
Because of the flexibility of the inland facility, Daniels said Edison Chouest is working diligently with the port to find another use for the property. Right now, it’s being used for training.
“We will continue to work with them,” Daniels said.