Rotterdam trip to help Miss-Lou leaders learn about port

Published 12:51am Sunday, May 19, 2013

NATCHEZ — A group of local and state officials are hoping a trip to the Netherlands in September will bring back the key to anchoring a regional port effort in the Miss-Lou.

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown and Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland will be traveling with local economic development and state officials to the Port of Rotterdam in hopes of replicating the success of Europe’s largest port.

Rotterdam is controlled by a single port authority, Brown said. It is a landlord port, and the authority leases space along the port to industries.

The goal of the trip, Brown and Copeland say, is to tour the port, look at its best practices and bring them back to see if they can be implemented in a joint effort between the Natchez port and the Vidalia port. The Vidalia port is under construction and should be completed by 2014.

The idea for the trip came out of meetings of the Miss-Lou Regionalism Steering Committee, Concordia Parish Economic Development Director Heather Malone said. The group is hoping to plan their trip to coincide with the 2013 SMART Rivers Conference, Malone said.

Malone said the trip would be beneficial in helping the Miss-Lou’s leaders learn about harnessing the power of the Mississippi River together.

“If we’re really going to be serious about working together … this is a perfect example of how it works and how you can take advantage of both sides of the river,” she said.

Brown said it is his hope that someday the local ports will be under the control of one port authority.

“Not the Natchez Port Authority or the Vidalia Port Authority but the Miss-Lou Port Authority,” he said.

Copeland said the Mississippi River is the Miss-Lou’s biggest asset.

“If you go back through the pages of history and look at the Mississippi River and how important it is, the cities that are moving forward and developing are going to be the ones that have a successful port,” he said.

The ultimate goal, Copeland said, is to create a port system in the Miss-Lou that is a model for cities all along the Mississippi River.

Rotterdam may be a sight to see, Copeland said, but the trip will be strictly business.

“This is not a vacation trip,” he said. “This is something that is going to be productive for us.”

Malone said the regionalism committee plans to raise funds for the trip to hopefully pay for expenses of officials from Natchez and Vidalia.