GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It's like a delicate ballet, only with heavy machinery at the Port of Gulfport. The forklifts scurry back and forth, in and out of trucks. What's being loaded today is fruit, lots of it.
On the horizon, a ship loaded with fabric and clothing is about to dock. A $550 million expansion at the port means an even busier future. Don Allee is the port director.
"We're currently the third busiest container port in the Gulf of Mexico consistently moving over 200,000 containers per year," Allee said. "Once our restoration is complete, we will have a facility capable of handling a million containers per year. That's a demonstration to the world that we are a committed player."
Here's a little known fact about the Port of Gulfport that folks may not have heard of. It is the second largest importer of fruit in the entire country, behind Philadelphia. And being the second largest importer means one means one thing.
Matthew Wypyski is the chief operating officer for the port.
"Not only is it a lot of good paying jobs, but we have truckers coming in here, and indirect jobs. Those truckers are gassing up in the area, they are eating their lunch or their dinner in this area, so that money flows outward into the whole community and the whole region so it's just tremendous all the way around," Wypyski said.
It's more than just fruit. Forest products are part of the mix, even used cars come and go. This hub of waterfront activity will provide something that is badly needed and keep these cranes moving well into the future, according to Allee.
"What Gulfport needs today, or the state of Mississippi but the world needs more jobs and there's not a better way to do it than a growing port facility such as the project going on here at the port of Gulfport."
Currently, there about 300 total longshoremen who work in the container operation at the port. On an average day, about 60 are on the job. The average salary for a longshoreman is $60,000 a year, plus benefits.