GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Port of Gulfport officials announced Tuesday the largest tenant is committing to remain at the Port for at least another 13 years and the company will be expanding. This is welcomed news after some feared Chiquita leaving would also drive away Dole.
Dole company officials say a new lease affirms the company's commitment to the people of Mississippi.
"It's great news for the port. It's great news for the region as a whole," Mississippi Port Authority Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Daniels said. "Dole has been here for 50 years. So to have a company like that commit to an additional 13 years, then if they exercise the other two options they will be here until 2037."
Daniels said final negotiations are underway and the new agreement has Dole relocating to the Chiquita facility and eventually to a new terminal. This move will nearly double Dole's storage space at the port.
"More space, more containers, more cargo moving through. Ultimately that will translate into more longshoremen hours," Daniels said. "That's more full time equivalence in that certainly helps us to meet the job obligation for HUD funding for 1,300 jobs."
With Chiquita moving out by the end of the year, Dole can begin moving into Chiquita's spot and the port's newest tenant McDermott can begin construction.
"We have come a long way in the last year and a half," he said. "The notice to proceed is being issued tomorrow for the two largest projects we have on site."
Those two projects total $50 million. On top of that, Dupont is in the midst of an $80 million construction project at the port and Island View is investing $58 million into restoring the hotel on the port property.
Daniels said these long term commitments make the future very bright for Mississippi and the Port.
"We may not be as large as some of the other ports, but you are going to find the same level of productivity, find the same equipment and the one thing we always stress is our workforce," Daniels said. "We have been told by those who have already been located at the port there are no more efficient port operations than they find in Gulfport."
Dole's current lease was set to expire in 2017. The latest agreement means Dole will be staying until 2027, but the company has two additional five-year extension options which could extend the contract until 2037.