GUEST COLUMN: New Port and Industrial Complex is key to Vicksburg’s future
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 16, 2022
By Keith Flowers | 2022 Chairman of the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce
As part of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, The Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce has been proud to stand with the Port Commission and the Economic Development Foundation over the past four years as we all witnessed unprecedented progress in our community.
Since the Partnership started operating, it has announced over 880 new jobs along with hundreds of millions in capital investments that have helped our economy expand and our community prosper. In addition to new manufacturing companies like Unified Brands and Vicksburg Forest Products moving into the region, we have seen developments and progress in different parts of our community including downtown with its condos, apartments, restaurants and overall quality-of-life improvements.
As part of the community’s strategic plan unveiled in 2018, the jewel of the crown for the region was the ambitious MCITy (Mississippi Center for Innovation and Technology) project, which would bring into one space ERDCWERX (tech transfer office of ERDC), the economic development offices of the community and educational and other innovation-related institutions. That project is now almost ready to open to the public through an unprecedented public-private effort by the Mississippi State Legislature, the city, the county, the EDF, the Chamber and the Port Commission.
A lot has changed in only four years and long gone seem the days when we did not pull together as a community with a unified direction. There is still a lot to do, but we stand ready to tackle any challenge in order to realize Vicksburg’s future potential, which will depend on the availability of good, high-paying jobs.
This is why the vision for a new Port and Industrial Complex south of I-20 is so important and why we must come together to make it a reality. The Chamber of Commerce has been witness to over 125 years of history in Vicksburg and our members understand that for communities to grow and excel, just like in business, you must invest in the future and set yourself up for success.
That is what our community did in the 1960s when it decided the Haining Road Port was needed and worked to make it happen. Their work back then set the region for a brighter future and today over 4,000 jobs are dependent on the companies that currently occupy that port. Unfortunately, there are no parcels left for sale at that port development and Vicksburg is losing many opportunities to recruit additional jobs that will sustain the future success of the region. Thanks to the leadership of the Port Commission, the city of Vicksburg, and the State Legislature, our community completed a Port Market Analysis in 2019 that concluded Vicksburg would attract hundreds of new jobs if more port sites were developed.
After the market analysis was done, a site selection study was undertaken as well to determine the most suitable area for such development. The area the study was trying to identify would have the highest chance of attracting jobs to the region to maximize public benefit. The study identified a large portion of land south of Interstate 20 around the Baxter Wilson area as the most suitable place for the community to develop a Port and Industrial Complex that would pay returns for future generations in the way of high-paying jobs and attraction of new investments.
The state legislature has demonstrated its support for the project by providing over $800,000 to the city of Vicksburg and the Port Commission to develop an environmental analysis of the area (the study is scheduled to be completed in April of this year). In addition, the Mississippi Development Authority, Entergy Mississippi and economic development stakeholders from across the region have demonstrated enthusiasm and support for the project and what it can do for the area.
In Vicksburg, we are working hard to make sure we are set for a brighter future. All the tech and entrepreneurship initiatives we are fostering, the many downtown and quality of life projects, the tourism and retail investments, all of that will only sustain themselves through wealth creation and high job opportunities for our residents. A new Port and Industrial Complex south of I-20 is the right step to prepare our community for more and better jobs, and the Chamber of Commerce is in full support of such a generational and transformational initiative.