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Facility seen as benefit to area farmers, local industry, regional businesses

New covered loading, unloading barge facility almost ready

GREENVILLE — A lot of hard work and $4.5 million can go a long way.

That’s the price tag for a new covered structure encompassing part of the dock in Greenville that will hold four river barges at one time under cover, as well as a fifth barge outside the cover. The new structure will be finished in about a month.

“We see this as a benefit to our area farmers, to local industry and to some regional businesses that can take advantage of our multi-modal capability in an all-weather environment,” said Harold Burdine, director of the Greenville Port Commission.

Before construction began on the all-weather facility, the Greenville Port had a wharf-type pier. Dry dock was of sufficient length that the port could get two river barges against it, end to end, parallel to the dock. Working with two crawler cranes with five-cubic-yard clamshell buckets, the job got done. But when it rained, work slowed to a halt.

“A lot of our cargo we handle here is weather sensitive, like inbound bulk fertilizer and raw ingredients to the catfish food processing industry, and outbound cotton seed and feed ingredients,” Burdine said. “We saw a need for an all-weather capability and a desperate need for more dock space.”

The structure was paid for with a federal Economic Development Authority grant, an $850,000 community development block grant, money from the port commission and loan money. The money also went to pay for a new crane with a 25-cubic-yard clamshell bucket.

In addition to a new clamshell bucket for the crane, a new covered loading and unloading facility, and space for more barges, the Greenville Port will also have the capability to execute barge-to-barge transfer under cover. Also underneath the cover, barges will have access to and from truck and rail.

Several million tons make their way into and out of the Greenville Port each year. At the public terminal, tonnage runs from 200,000 to 280,000 per year. With the new covered structure at the port, the commission is already working with several new customers that could increase the tonnage a minimum of 100,000 tons.

“A port, especially a niche port on the inland river system, can effectively attract business within about 50 to 60 miles inland,” Burdine said. “We expect the great benefit in jobs to come about in our customer base because we will be able to handle a greater amount of cargo more efficiently, and we expect some of the plants will be able to go from seasonal to year-round runs.”

Tommy Hart, executive director of the Industrial Foundation of Washington County, said before the port provided covered loading and unloading, companies that used it faced inefficiency and increased cost.

“Now that cost is going to be more competitive,” Hart said. “We hope and feel the new covered loading and unloading facility will provide development advantages for companies that have similar requirements.”

Jed Morris, owner of Greenville Iron and Metal, ships fragmented scrap metal by barge to steel mills across the country from the port in Greenville. He expects to see more and more people using the river in the future to ship their goods.

“One of the benefits of the river is you can have a bigger market base because of the better cost of freight,” Morris said. “That should be the same effect for any business that has the capacity to ship by water. And this new facility here should provide better opportunities for people to ship.”

Greenville Iron and Metal ships anywhere between 70,000 and 100,000 tons per year from its home in Greenville. He said the new barge facility would alleviate the pinches he is used to seeing in the busy season.

“It just works out such that we have to squeeze in barges and it costs us to handle more inventory to hit the tighter barge schedules,” Morris said. “It’s not a problem normally, but during the busy seasons when the grain is going out the port gets jam-packed.”

Burdine is thankful for what has been done to the Greenville Port.

“I’d like to thank Congressmen Bennie Thompson and Roger Wicker and Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran…,” Burdine said. “We got a lot of support from our Mississippi delegation in Washington and from the Mississippi Development Authority in Jackson too.” Burdine also thanked the Greenville City Council and the Washington County Board of Supervisors.

Contractors for the job included Mid-South Industrial in Bels, Tenn., SPH Material Handling in Oak Creek, Wisc., and Industrial Services of Greenville. The new 25-cubic-yard bucket comes from MACK Buckets of Theodore, Ala.

Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at ekirkland@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1042.

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