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Idea of a new port for Vicksburg is growing closer to reality

In 2018, the Mississippi Legislature put their money toward a project and their faith in a group of leaders that, if fully realized, could mean millions of dollars in industrial investment and hundreds of new jobs in Vicksburg and Warren County.

With money appropriated by the Legislature, the planning behind a new port in Vicksburg has become far more than an idea discussed locally, and become an idea that is beginning to take shape.

Discussed in the abstract for years, the idea of a new port of Vicksburg is farther down the road than many realize and is coming to a point in the next few months where a possible site, or sites, may be identified.

Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership President and CEO Pablo Diaz said the Partnership, working with a committee of local elected and business officials, have already started identifying possible sites and narrowing them down. It is the goal, Diaz said, to have one or two sites selected to present to state leaders by the end of 2020.

“Right now we are doing benchmarks on multiple sites and narrowing them down,” he said. He added that once the ultimate site is selected, additional due diligence and permitting — including working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — would be required.

As for which site is ultimately selected will come down to a number of factors, including how much it would cost to bring needed infrastructure — such as water, electrical, roads — to the site and how well it can be incorporated into other multi-modal components, such as access to the river, the airport and the interstate.

As for why a new port is needed, Diaz said the current port facilities are full, and room for any expansion is not available, making it difficult to expand the area’s industrial base and further diversify the local economy.

“I think this is certainly a very promising project and I like it because it speaks to the next 50 years,” Diaz said. “I think doing this project, along with MCITy, I think we are doing what we are preaching as a community. We are paying attention to the present, paying attention to the existing industry, paying attention to the future and trying to have a diversified economy.”

MCITy is the Mississippi Center for Information and Technology, currently under construction in downtown Vicksburg in the former Mississippi Hardware Building, which is expected to welcome its first tenants in late 2021.

The Port of Vicksburg is the 15th largest inland port in the country based on millions of tons according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers data. According to the Partnership, the port supports 21 industries that employ 4,000 people. 

In July, Seabury Marine LLC, a company contracted by the city of Vicksburg published a Port of Vicksburg Market Analysis that gave a snapshot of what markets and businesses could be attracted by expanded port operations.

The report shows that the expansion of services in Vicksburg, whether through expansion at the current port or construction of a new port working in combination with existing facilities, has the potential to bring in millions of dollars in new investment and create hundreds of new jobs.

The report, which is more than 100 pages in length, was first submitted to an oversight committee and details the methodology the firm used to identify six top market opportunities that “could account for at least 600 jobs and investments in the hundreds of millions of dollars if fully realized.”

Diaz said once the site is selected, then the work of developing a master plan would begin. This would be done hand-in-hand with potential industries in mind to, as Diaz said, reduce the risk for those looking to locate at the site. 

The oversite committee has been put in place to oversee the project and work with Jacob’s Engineering, the main consultant working with the Partnership.

The members on that committee include Diaz, Warren County Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland, Patrick Smith, Austin Golding and Tray Hardaway.

About Tim Reeves

Tim Reeves, and his wife Stephanie, are the parents of three children, Sarah Cameron, Clayton and Fin, who all attend school in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The family are members of First Baptist Church Vicksburg. Tim is involved in a number of civic and volunteer organizations including the United Way of West Central Mississippi and serves on the City of Vicksburg's Riverfront Redevelopment Committee.

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