UNION CITY, Tenn. (AP) Construction of a highly anticipated Mississippi River port project in northwest Tennessee is expected to start shortly, an official said.
Jimmy Williamson, chairman of the Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority, said the Port at Cates Landing in Lake County will immediately create 234 jobs when construction begins. The deep-water port is expected to create 1,700 jobs in all, with business revenue of $354 million, he said.
Williamson and other northwest Tennessee officials are eager to see the project move forward after U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher said that a $13 million federal grant for the project had been approved. Gov. Bill Haslam said he has included $7 million in his state budget for the port.
The facility would be the deepest port on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Baton Rouge, La. It would include a 9,000-sq. ft. harbor and cover 1,200 acres, including a 500-acre industrial park.
Construction is expected to take about 18 months, and four industrial prospects have already expressed interest in the port, the Union City Messenger reported.
Haslam and several area politicians spoke about the port project at the Obion County Library in Union City March 17. Haslam said the port makes sense because it will create jobs for the region and change the future for northwest Tennessee and the state.
Fincher told the Dyersburg State Gazette that job creation is important for the area, where unemployment is higher than the national average. The Republican first-term Congressman said he placed the project high on his priority list.
“Jobs are not Democrat or Republican, they are Tennessee,” said Fincher.
Williamson and others are expected to soon finish the contract with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration. Once that happens, jobs will then be offered for bids.
There was some concern that the federal funding would not come through. The Jackson Sun reported earlier in March that some northwest Tennessee officials feared that Congress would eliminate a $600 million Department of Transportation program that was the source of the Cates Landing grant.
Tennessee’s two U.S. Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, issued statements praising the grant.
“I’m particularly proud of the hard work done at the local, state and federal levels to secure these competitive grant funds,” Corker said. “At a time when everyone knows we need to do more with less and dramatically reduce spending in Washington, this effort is a good use of existing resources.”