GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Governor Phil Bryant was in Gulfport Monday morning to announce an agreement between the state of Mississippi and Topship, LLC to bring 1,000 new shipbuilding jobs to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And it turns out the historic agreement all started with a hunting trip.
Gov. Bryant said he and Gary Chouest, CEO of Edison Chouest Offshore, began talking about plans to bring Topship to Mississippi during a hunt. The men formed a friendship and mutual admiration you could feel at Monday's announcement.
Chouest has deep roots in the Gulf Coast area. He was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi and grew up in the Kiln. His father worked in the pulp wood industry, and Chouest said he spent many a day and night working on shrimp boats as a young man.
Chouest cited the work ethic of the people in Gulfport as a deciding factor in bringing the facility to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Edison Chouest Offshore's new Gulfport operations, TopShip, LLC, will be located at the Port of Gulfport's new inland port on Seaway Road. The company will be operating at the former Huntington Ingalls Composite Facility, which was acquired by the Port in March 2015.
Just last week, the governor called a special session for lawmakers to approve an incentive package for Topship and Continental Tire, which is setting up shop in Hinds county. Together, the two projects will bring $1.5 billion in company investments to Mississippi, and 3,500 jobs. Lawmakers approved $11 million through the Mississippi Major Economic Impact Authority - $10 million in discretionary grants and $1 million for workforce training.
Chouest promised on Monday that the jobs at his company in Gulfport will have an average salary of $40,000. And that Topship is making a long-term investment with a 50 year agreement.
The Port of Gulfport, through its restoration budget, is also providing $25 million in Katrina-CDBG funds for infrastructure improvements. The city of Gulfport and Harrison County are providing personal property tax abatements in support of the project.
WLOX has a crew at this morning's announcement and will have more details on the project throughout the day on WLOX News Now and WLOX.com.