NORTHEAST MISSISSIPPI — Five ports on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Northeast Mississippi have launched a joint initiative to boost awareness as well as traffic on the waterway.
GROWPORTS is a collaborative effort of the Yellow Creek Port, Port Itawamba, Amory Port, Aberdeen Port and Columbus Port that launched Sept 1. “GROW” stands for Generating Regional Opportunity on the Waterway.
The association looks to promote green energy-driven economic development and transportation through the development of a comprehensive, energy-efficient intermodal transportation network connecting the inland waterways of the Tennessee River with the international waterways through Mobile, Ala.
Greg Deakle, head of the Itawamba County Development Council, said talk of forming GROWPORTS began in April 2008 at an event in Tupelo focused on container-on-barge potential for local ports.
“Then, the economy went in the dumper,” Deakle said.
The initiative got new life from a Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. TIGER grants are awarded for capital investments in surface transportation infrastructure projects that will have a significant impact on the nation, a metropolitan area or a region.
“When the TIGER application came across my desk, I saw that it was a perfect fit,” Deakle said. “It allowed all of us to join forces.”
The association is actively promoting GROWPORTS and the 234-mile-long “Tenn-Tom,” which offers 17 public ports and terminals in Mississippi and Alabama and serves the deepwater ports at Biloxi, Pascagoula, Gulfport, Mobile, New Orleans, Panama City and Pensacola.
Combined, the associated ports offer significant assets. Port Itawamba encompasses a barge fleeting area, 1,200 additional feet of mooring and handling space and 150-acre tri-modal industrial park. Yellow Creek Port offers a 420-foot main dock and storage for 14 barges. The ports at Amory, Aberdeen and Columbus are smaller, but also offer docks, mooring cells, cranes and other infrastructure.
Deakle pointed out that “GROW” implies “green,” and part of the association’s mission is to tout the ports’ use as a way to ease traffic congestion and, thus, cut down on vehicle emissions.
For more information on GROWPORTS, visit www.growports.com.
By WALLY NORTHWAY
MBJ Staff Writer