Governor: Shipbuilder wants to locate in Natchez

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 4, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; A Navy contract could bring Bollinger &8212; and hundreds of new jobs &8212; to Natchez, Gov. Haley Barbour said Tuesday.

If the Navy decides to ask for and Congress votes to fund the construction in the United States of a vessel now being built in and leased from Australia, Barbour said he feels confident it will be built in Natchez.

Barbour confirmed Bollinger is the shipbuilding company that, in recent years, has considered Natchez as a site for a shipbuilding location.

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Still, he noted, &8220;the Navy has not yet made an order for these vessels,&8221; and for Bollinger to build a new shipbuilding plant &8220;there has to be a contract.&8221;

One encouraging sign, he said, &8220;is that the Navy seems pleased with the (few) of these vessels they&8217;re leasing from Australia now.&8221;

Depending on the size of the contract, Bollinger could bring 500 to 1,500 jobs, Barbour said.

Although Barbour didn&8217;t give details about the type of vessel in question, the Navy&8217;s own Web site notes that the high-speed HSV-X1 catamaran is being leased from Australia by the Navy.

Vidalia was also in the running for the Bollinger plant but is no longer in negotiations with the company, Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

&8220;The Navy contracts they were counting on did not come through,&8221; he said.

Woody Allen, chairman of the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority, said the last contact he had with Bollinger was an e-mail several months ago.

&8220;Saying basically (the new plant idea) was dead in the water until there were some appropriations from Congress&8221; to build the ship in question,&8221; Allen said.

If Bollinger were to come to Adams County, it would locate at the former Belwood Country Club site at the Natchez-Adams County Port.

That&8217;s also the same site being looked at by Colorado-based fuel manufacturer Rentech.

If the right state and federal incentives, such as loan guarantees and $15 million in site development from the state, come through, Rentech officials have said they will build an $800 million, 200-job plant at the site by 2011.

That $15 million has been whittled down to $2 million and $10 million in House and Senate bills, respectively, although lawmakers from both houses have said the full $15 million has a good chance of being restored in conference committee.

&8220;(If Rentech) is successful in putting together their private (sector) financing, &8230; I would be in favor of the full $15 million,&8221; Barbour said. &8220;But we don&8217;t want to put state money up first.&8221;