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State port could land two new tenants; details pending

GULFPORT — The executive director of the Port of Gulfport says the facility could sign deals with two prospective tenants in the next six months.

The Sun-Herald reports that news of the prospective tenants was revealed in a status report on a $570-million state restoration project at the port.

It says the projects would open trade lines with northern Europe and Asia. That, the report says, would help the port capitalize on an increase in trade with Asia that is expected to result from expansion of the Panama Canal.

Because of confidentiality agreements with the two, neither their names nor the nature of their business can be revealed, said port executive director Jonathan Daniels. He said an announcement with those details was two to six months away.

Reilly Morse, managing director at the Mississippi Center for Justice and a critic of the port project, called the report a public relations “piece of cotton candy.” He accused state officials of holding back information on the port.

“The governor and the port have suppressed this watchdog report,” he said, referring to the legislative Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review report that was completed months ago but hasn’t been made public. “If the Legislature hasn’t figured that out, then heaven help us.”

Denton Gibbes, who handles public relations for the port, said the port turned over to the media its responses to the PEER report.

Daniels said the new tenants would help the port toward its goal of 1,200 jobs, which was a requirement the Department of Housing and Urban Development made when it gave the port $570 million.

“It will have a significant impact on tonnage, vessel calls and ultimately that translates into more jobs,” he said.

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