PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - When it was announced a year ago, it was advertised as one of the largest economic development projects in the past 40 years in Jackson County. As of Monday, it’s about halfway finished. That project is the $150 million revitalization of the Ingalls East Bank shipyard.
Hurricane Katrina destroyed the yard back in 2005, and it’s been dormant ever since. But that should soon be changing.
Nearby business owners along Ingalls Avenue seem to have a real sense of anticipation of what the reopened East Bank will mean for their bottom lines.
At Bozo’s Seafood market, the lines are regularly long. When the East Bank reopens, it might get even busier when shipyard workers call it a day.
“They’re going to grab some colds drinks, and cold beer and some sandwiches, so hopefully we can cash in,” said owner Keith Delcambre.
David Wells bought an empty building and opened a convenience store, complete will Ingalls murals near the shipyard. He hopes the East Bank’s success will bring him success.
“Just trying to get in on the prosperity. I mean, they prosper over here on the East Bank, and I wanted to get in on it,” he explained.
At the Outrigger Bar And Grill, the menu and restaurant hours has expanded. Construction workers on the East Bank project have helped to pay off that bet for owner Theresa Hawes.
“We’re getting a lunch crowd. They are coming in here for lunch, and they come in here when they close for happy hour. So, we’re getting a little bit of business off of it,”she said.
When the Ingalls East Bank reopens about a year from now, it’s certainly going to be good for local businesses. But it’s also going to be sending a signal to the international business community and worldwide ports.
“We think it sends a signal that this is a good port to do business in and the people investing the private money in the terminals around here are a strong indicator of that,” said Pascagoula port director Mark McAndrews.
Business manager and former city council member Paul Clark believes this development could be the beginning of something very good for Jackson County.
“It will have a great economic impact, very positive on all the businesses around," said Clark. “It also shows a lot of confidence that they are willing to expand that and reopen that again. So, hopefully, it will be more of an open door for other businesses to come in and start doing business.”
Right now, there are several hundred people who are working construction jobs on the site.
At this point, it’s difficult to say how many more workers Ingalls will hire to man the shipyard when it opens next year, but company officials have said there will definitely be more people hired. Those numbers should become clearer later this year.