Natchez-Adams Port looks forward to new master planPublished 12:05am Sunday, April 28, 2013
NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams County Port Director Anthony Hauer knows reputation is everything on the Mississippi River.
“Your reputation precedes you, and on this river system, we have a good rep,” Hauer said. “Whether its one-time clients or frequent clients, they know we can take care of them.”
That good reputation, as well as dedicated employees and a solid infrastructure, are some of the things Hauer attributes to the port’s steady growth in the past decade.
And a recent move by the Adams County Board of Supervisors to begin lease-purchasing a 450,000-square-foot warehouse at the port is just another example of how the county and port commission are capitalizing on opportunities to help expand the port, Hauer said.
“The warehouse is a vital link to what we do, and in the 29-plus years since I’ve been here, the doors have always been open, and it’s always been in use,” Hauer said. “I think the opportunity once again presented itself for the port, or the county, to take ownership of the warehouse, and I think we’ve capitalized on that opportunity.”
The warehouse is another asset the port can add to its expanding economic development abilities, county board of supervisors president Darryl Grennell said.
“There’s no question that the port is a necessity in terms of economic development for Adams County and the Miss-Lou,” Grennell said. “They approached us and said we need the warehouse space, and the board stepped up and decided to move in that direction.
“The port is a very critical piece of the infrastructure that’s needed to enhance the economy of this community.”
The riverside warehouse is currently used for housing products that are off- and on-loaded onto barges in the port. The port has operated the warehouse for Valley National Bank since the bank foreclosed on the building’s former owners last February.
The county was awarded the sale of the warehouse by bid in February, submitting a bid of $2.5 million for the warehouse.
The county will enter into a certificate of participation for the warehouse. In a certificate of participation, a non-profit organization — in this case, the Southwest Mississippi Planning and Development District — will hold the title and the debt service for the warehouse.
The port will continue to operate the warehouse and generate funds, which will be used for its lease payments.
The lease payments will be the same amount as the note payments that SWPDD would have to make for the building.
Once the lease payments have paid off the note, the title will be transferred to the county. The port currently already generates the funds necessary to make the payments.
The warehouse, Hauer said, will continue playing a vital role in the port’s future expansion.
“Without the warehouse, the volume of cargo we move through the port could not happen,” Hauer said. “I think it’s potential has been under utilized in the past, but it appears it’s found its link once again.”
A decade and approximately $4 million in funding through the Mississippi Department of Transportation later, Hauer said all the projects on the port’s previous master plan have been completed.
Those projects included purchasing four railroad crossings, a mobile rail car mover and rehabilitating two cranes, among other things.
“We’ve been to the White House, state house and even the courthouse downtown to get these things done,” Hauer said. “The old master plan is complete, and now we’re in the process of completing a new master plan.”
Hauer said the key to drafting a new master plan that will benefit the port for years to come is to seek input from customers and clients who frequent the port.
“There is no build it and they will come with this industry,” Hauer said. “This will be the result of many conversations with actual clients to see what they need and what we can do to help expand the port.”
Dedicating projects to current and future clients has helped the port expand from just three clients when Hauer first came on board to the 23 clients the port currently services.
Hauer said approximately 90-percent of the raw materials that go into the items people encounter every day were at one point transported via water, and Mississippi, Adams County and Natchez should take advantage of that market.
“People wouldn’t frown on a tugboat or barge if they realized that coffee they’re drinking that came all the way from Columbia came through a water system,” Hauer said. “They’ll have to pay an extra $4 if that coffee has to be flown over, so marine transportation just makes sense.”