GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Ongoing concerns about job creation at the Port of Gulfport were shared during Thursday's monthly meeting of the port authority board. The attorney for the STEPS Coalition urged the port to comply with HUD requirements for creating and reporting new jobs.
"I am urging you and the Mississippi Development Authority, without further delay, to enter into a memorandum of understanding incorporating the requirements HUD has put into place," attorney Reilly Morse told the port authority board.
Representing the STEPS Coalition, attorney Morse urged port commissioners to "remove the cloud" from port development by meeting HUD's job creation and reporting requirements.
"You've been given a gift from the federal taxpayers of this country of half a billion dollars. And you told them in return for receiving this gift, that you would create these jobs. And you have to keep your word," he told the board.
There was no immediate response from commissioners, but during his report, Port Director Jonathan Daniels did reply.
"Having our partners with the STEPS coalition here, always keeping our feet to the fire, we appreciate the comments. We certainly do. And we are always striving to be better in the policies, the procedures, the processes that we move forward on," said Director Daniels.
The port is mandated to create 1200 new jobs within three years after the expansion project is finished.
"Certainly, compliance is an ongoing issue. If there are areas that we are falling short, whether by not having the information or presenting it in a way that they don't want it, we're going to improve upon that. The one thing that will remain open until the end is the job creation number," said Daniels.
"He understands our concerns. And I know he's working hard every day, but we continue to just raise these concerns that this much money being spent, we have to be sure that we get the jobs," said Howard Page, with the STEPS Coalition.
Port Director Daniels said the first jobs report filed last month shows 92 new jobs created by Gulf Coast Shipyard Group's port facility. He said 59 percent of those jobs are for low-to-moderate income persons, exceeding the federal requirement of 51 percent.