New job-creating industries are always welcomed by communities, but nowhere is that more true than in hurricane-ravaged Hancock County. It was a jubilant day when Indian pipe maker PSL-North America announced it will build an $80-million facility on a 155-acre site in Port Bienville Industrial Park.
Gov. Haley Barbour joined local officials to make the announcement of the Gulf Coast’s first new industry since Hurricane Katrina devastated the area in 2005.
“We worry about sending American jobs to India, so it’s nice to get a little Indian capital in Mississippi,” the governor said. “It’s especially nice because they’re already saying they’ll expand the plant here.”
PSL-NA is a recently created joint venture controlled by PSL Limited, an Indian company based in Mumbai with Indian and American partners. The Hancock County plant will manufacture, coat and line large diameter pipe used for the onshore natural gas transportation industry.
One of the American partners, Alex Lowe of Lenexa, Kan., was on hand for the announcement. “This is like the country music awards where everyone is thanking everyone, but I especially want to mention Gena Lentz with the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA),” he said. “She brought this project back to life. It was going to Alabama and she asked us to take one more look at Port Bienville.”
Lowe and company CEO Brian Vaill praised the industrial park’s location and the many people who worked to put the proposal together.
“We considered many sites, but the people of Mississippi put together an outstanding solution for us, and we’re looking forward to working here,” Vaill said. “We feel there’s an outstanding workforce here, too, along with access to national and international customers by truck, barge and rail.”
He said construction of the facility will begin in July with the first full-time employees coming onboard in September. He urged anyone wanting to work for the new plant to apply through the state’s WIN Job Centers. The plant is expected to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2008 with 300 employees producing 300,000 tons of pipe per year.
“The market is red hot. It’s strong into the next decade because there are new sources of gas coming online, the age of the present infrastructure and replacement opportunities,” Vaill said. “We can leverage opportunities through PSL Limited. They’re the largest pipe manufacturer in the world and we feel good they’re our partners.”
Vaill added that he has a high level of confidence in the state-of-the-art technology for pipe making the company utilizes.
Taking a team approach
Hancock County Board of Supervisors president Rocky Pullman said, “God answered prayers in bringing this new industry to our county. A lot of people need jobs and homes here. We welcome PSL-North America as our family.”
He thanked the economic development partners who put the deal together. Those included the Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission, MDA, Mississippi Power Company, Coast Electric and Pearl River Community College.
Barbour referred to job creation as a “team sport.” Lentz, the project manager with MDA credited with saving the project from going to Alabama, did, too. “There are many different dynamics with these projects,” she said. “Our team knew Port Bienville would be a great location, and we worked with our partners to make it happen.”
MDA executive director Gray Swoope also praised those who worked on the project. “With the strength and support of partners like the Hancock County Port & Harbor Commission and Mississippi Power Company, the state was able to ensure PSL-NA an ideal location with an adequate, skilled workforce plus excellent transportation options,” he said.
Robert Kane, chairman of the commission, said the new industry further diversifies Hancock County’s industrial base and adds good paying jobs to the region.
PSL-NA was induced with $50 million in Gulf Opportunity Zone bonding authority from the state. MDA has committed $9 million for public infrastructure costs from Community Development Block Grant Funds and pledged another $1 million in loan funds for rail improvements. Additionally, the U.S. Economic Development Administration has stated its interest in providing a grant of up to $1.5 million in federal funds. The county and Port & Harbor Commission are offering the site to the company for $1 per year as long as PSL-NA maintains or exceeds its projected employment goal.
Port Bienville is a waterfront industrial park that includes a port and canal system within five miles of the Intracoastal Waterway and the Gulf of Mexico. It is served by its own short-line railroad system with connections to the nearby CSX main line. It is located within Foreign Trade Zone No. 92.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.