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Port of Gulfport revenue grows with reconstruction

By JACK WEATHERLY 

The Port of Gulfport continues to make progress in its recovery from Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and its revenue reflects that.

The port’s “net position” increased by $112.7 million as of the fiscal year ending June 30, compared with an increase of $84.6 million the previous fiscal year, according to an annual independent audit.

Net position on assets – reflecting the continuing rebuilding of the port – was $562.6 million, compared with $449.9 million.

Total operating revenues were $16.1 million, a 14.4 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

Operating expenses were $27 million, resulting in an operating loss on paper of $10.8 million. However, $10.2 million of the expenses was reimbursed by federal Community Development Block Grants, according to port management comments on the audit.

Jonathan Daniels, executive director and chief executive of the port, said that about $460 million of $566 million transferred to the port for restoration by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department has been spent or is contractually obligated.

Daniels said that revenue for fiscal 2016 does not include any maritime revenue now coming in because of a renewed agreement with Chiquita.

Chiquita began shipping bananas into the port in August after a two and one-half year absence while it operated out of New Orleans. The hiatus essentially ended Chiquita’s 40-year operation at Gulfport.

Resumption of operations will have a significant impact on the revenues, not to mention the space that Chiquita needs, he said.

“We’re taking portions of the new construction and we’re actually putting them into service even before they’re done.”

Some of the tenants have to move weekly or monthly, he said. “It’s like a carousel around here.”

“We’re running a two, two-and-one-half-million-ton port right in the middle of this heavy construction.”

Chiquita will occupy 32 acres of the port, twice the presence it held before it moved its operations to New Orleans.

While Chiquita is not close to full operation, the port’s total tonnage is already up 11.8 percent over last year, he said, while the Port of New Orleans’ is down 1 percent.

The restoration of the port will add 84 acres, bringing the total to about 300 acres. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Among capital investments from the HUD transfer include several major contracts with Mississippi firms.

Jackson-based Neel-Schaffer won a $24 million contract with for engineering and design.

W.C. Fore Trucking of Gulfport has been paid $39.6 million for filling about 84 acres for the west pier expansion.

Necaise Brothers Construction Inc. of Gulfport was paid $69.3 million for west pier utilities and site work and $44.1 million for phase 2 west pier construction.

On a different matter, MDA has submitted to HUD about 326 nongaming jobs at the Island View Casino Hotel, which is located on port property, to be counted toward creation of 1,300 jobs in exchange for the $566 million that was shifted from low-cost housing.

Fifty-one percent of the 1,300 jobs must be for low to moderate persons. About 300 of the hotel jobs fall into that category, Daniels said.

He said Island View is the largest tenant in terms of number of jobs.

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