MDOT grant for port work is major step toward prosperous future

Published 11:16 am Wednesday, July 19, 2017

News Monday of the almost $1 million Mississippi Department of Transportation grant to the Warren County Port Commission marks a major step forward in improving and upgrading the Port of Vicksburg.

The commission is getting $908,958 from MDOT to help cover the $956,808 cost of rehabilitating one of the port’s warehouses to provide a dry storage area for the port, which Pablo Diaz, chamber executive director/port director, said should help increase port business.

The commission is receiving further financial help from WATCO, which has agreed to pay 10 percent of the project cost not to exceed $100,000.

WATCO has a contract with Warren County to manage port operations. The warehouse rehabilitation is the first of what could be other changes at the port, as officials prepare to bring the facility up to more modern standards and prepare it to play a role in handling materials for the proposed Continental Tire plant to be built between here and Clinton.

It is also the first time the port commission has moved to act on the recommendations of a facilities assessment prepared by Stantec, the county’s engineers, which in June 2016 was hired by the commission to work with WATCO to develop a facilities plan to help commissioners set priorities for infrastructure repairs.

And the grant is validation that the members of the Port Commission, the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce made the right move when they hired Diaz to serve as chamber executive director/port director and handle the county’s economic development efforts.

It was Diaz who recommended the commission apply for the grant, and who prepared the application and delivered it to MDOT officials, between the time he was hired and officially took office. Diaz said Monday he would be looking for other funding sources to pay for more work at the port.

When Diaz was hired, he said two of the biggest assets Warren County had were its transportation infrastructure and the Port of Vicksburg, and “there was a lot of untapped opportunity in the Vicksburg/Warren County area, and you actually make the investment necessary to tell the outside world the story of Vicksburg and the vision of tomorrow, you would actually generate a lot of activity.”

The MDOT grant is the first investment toward this area’s vision of tomorrow, and the warehouse rehabilitation project is the first move. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more investment.