GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A new construction contract, proposed harbor improvements and a possible new tenant. All were considered at Friday's monthly meeting of the Mississippi State Port Authority.
Projects involving wood pellet exports, new buildings and harbor amenities got the board's attention. Substantial improvements are on the way for the harbor area on the west side of the port, just south of the Island View Casino hotel.
The old catwalk, which is in such disrepair but remains a popular spot for fishermen, will be greatly enhanced.
"There will also be a walkway and a gazebo or accommodations for fishing along the pier," said Port Restoration Director Joe Conn.
"That's going to be a significant improvement and additional public access for recreation," said commission Chairman John Rester.
The changes to come will complement the Island View hotel, which is now being restored.
"There's work going on. There's a lot happening that's about to be finished, and it's going to be a terrific project for the Coast. It's important that we complement their efforts down there," said Commissioner Jim Simpson.
Port commissioners emerged from a brief executive session to share news about a possible new tenant. A Wisconsin based company, Waters' New Biotech, wants to produce wood pellets in Mississippi and ship them overseas from the Port of Gulfport.
"Just continues that diversification. It really allows us the opportunity to work with a new industry, and it shows that the work that's been going on with the restoration project is beginning to pay off," said Jonathan Daniels, Executive Director for the Port of Gulfport.
The board of commissioners also awarded a $47 million construction contract to Southern Industrial Contractors out of Louisiana. The company will construct actual buildings on the newly expanded west pier. Buildings that include storage sheds for longtime tenants Dole and Crowley, as well as administrative offices.
"It's amazing the type of synergy that's occurring. Activity often times begets additional activity," said Daniels.
The company wanting to export those wood pellets from the Port of Gulfport could begin operations by the end of next year. The pellets would be produced elsewhere in Mississippi, and then shipped from Gulfport. Plans call for exporting 300,000 tons in the first year and 800,000 tons by year five.