GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A recent recruitment trip to Central America is already showing promise for the Port of Gulfport. Port Director Jonathan Daniels told the port authority board this week that potential tenants like what they see.
While the Port of Gulfport continues its ongoing expansion and restoration project, the executive director is looking for future business to fill the new space that's being created. Recently, he called on a trio of countries in Central America.
"Eighteen meetings during that time period. Shippers, carriers, existing tenants down there. Talking with them about opportunities to expand upon their operations," said Jonathan Daniels.
The director says there's already business development coming from his visit to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
"There's a lot of interest. There's a lot of interest in returning cargo. There's a lot of interest in holding cargo. I'll tell you that much right now, and that's a big part of what we're doing," he said.
Fresh produce is a big product of Central America. And Director Daniels said one big advantage for Gulfport is a local business called Gateway America. Located at the air cargo facility at the airport, it includes irradiation equipment for processing fresh food products.
"There's a lot of fruits and vegetables that are not able to come into the United States, unless they are irradiated. The facility we have out there is one of very few in the United States," said Director Daniels.
Along with recruiting new business to the port, there are also improvement projects underway for existing tenants. Dupont, for example, is about to begin construction on its improvement project.
"It's significant that we're entering the hard construction phase of the Dupont project. Eighty million dollar capital investment. Overwhelming majority of that is private capital. It's exactly why you make investments in public infrastructure is to attract private capital and investment. This is a prime example of that," said Port Authority Commissioner Jack Norris.
Director Daniels said the military represents another excellent opportunity for the Port of Gulfport. The port recently hosted a group of military consultants who help coordinate such business. The port is also going through the process to be declared a "strategic port location" which should help attract Department of Defense business.
The Dupont improvement project should be finished in just over a year.