Sunday, December 03, 2006

Brighter Future for Hancock County

From the SeaCoast Echo
Hancock’s future looking brighter
By Bennie Shallbetter
Dec 1, 2006, 17:33
Email this article Printer friendly pagePort and Harbor Commission director Hal Walters has a positive outlook for future economic growth at the port's two facilities, Stennis International Airport and Port Bienville. The two facilities suffered around $38 million in damages as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
The main thing holding up that growth now is the lack of available housing and the water and sewer services that go along with that growth, said Walters Monday."We have probably more economic development interest than before the storm-much more actually," said Walters. "But it is hard to attract business and industry without housing. When they come and look they don't see the housing, the churches. And we still only have one grocery store."
Of course, Walters says, he realizes that things are progressing and hopes that in the near future the county will have the infrastructures to attract some of the businesses that the commission sees as a future economic base for the county. That includes hoped for businesses at a planned 208 acre airport expansion just east of the south end of the runway. Walters hopes that air cargo, and maintenance businesses, as well as a limited airline service will help make the airport even busier.
For now, a maintenance business operates out of Hanger B, and Pegasus, a company that both manufactures and overhauls large aircraft, is moving into Hanger C. Pegasus will install a new generation of radar systems into Coast Guard C-130's at the airport. The company also supplies aircraft for Optech, another airport tenant.Another high tech company, Fugro Pelagos, has established a presence at the airport, Walters said. The company, which performs offshore surveying services using advanced technologies, has been involved both at the airport and Stennis Space Center for years, Walters said, but are recent tenants at Stennis Airport.Port Bienville has a major new tenant Solvay Advanced Polymers. The company bought out Mississippi Polymer last spring.
And with a channel dredged deeper than pre-storm conditions, 14 feet, Walters hopes for a business to replace shipper Linea Peninsular, a major tenant for over 20 years. The business left after Katrina.
There are no ships yet, but the port is being used, said Walters. Barge traffic brings in raw materials and supplies for Port businesses Wellman and G.E. Plastics, as well as coal for DuPont DeLisle and Calgon, and limestone for Vulcan Materials.
The Port rail line was up and running quickly after the storm, in November, Walters said, but no shipments could come or go until CSX was ready, with the first shipment leaving the Port in January.
© 2005 Bay St. Louis Newspapers, Inc.

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