GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The Mississippi State Port Authority has awarded a major construction contract for the Port of Gulfport expansion.
L & A Contracting of Hattiesburg won the $55.8 million contract for improvements at the west pier and wharf.
The contract represents two-and-a-half years of construction work at the port.
The port commission president says it will include upgrading the wharf, building infrastructure for new gantry cranes and providing a firm foundation for a larger Port of Gulfport.
"First of all, it came in much lower than we had thought possible, so we saved some money. Secondly, it's a very reputable firm, a Mississippi contractor that's going to employ a lot of other Mississippi contractors. So, it's an all around terrific award for us," said Jim Simpson.
Perhaps most importantly, it will provide construction jobs at a time when creating job opportunities is the biggest issue with the $570 million port project.
"There will be a lot of construction jobs," said Simpson, "A lot of people working down there. You know, any jobs are good jobs. So, we're happy about it. It will be local Mississippians working and so we're excited about that."
The company that won the port contract is no stranger to large construction projects here in South Mississippi. L-&-A Contracting built the small craft harbor in Biloxi, and rebuilt it after Hurricane Katrina. The company also build the I-10 bridge over the Jordan River and played a large role in building the Popp's Ferry bridge in Biloxi.
Simpson says, keep in mind, the construction jobs are just a stepping stone to even greater economic opportunity.
"When the construction ends, that's when the permanent facility is available. And we'll bring in new tenants and there will be more permanent, good new jobs. And that's the goal. That's where we're trying to get," he explained.
The new construction is expected to begin June 6th.
This construction contract is one of several the port authority plans to award this year. Port leaders say they expect to approve contracts totaling $130 to $180 million.