By KEVIN BOWDEN
Cates Landing in Lake County has become a tale of two situations. While the weather and low Mississippi River conditions are delaying the project, construction work continues to forge ahead.
That’s the status of the multi-million dollar Mississippi River port, which is now projected to open in early March 2013, according to port authority chairman Jimmy Williamson.
The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority met for about 40 minutes Wednesday morning in Dyersburg. The brief agenda was once again dominated by reports from Dyersburg attorney John Lannom and Forcum Lannom’s Mike Sanders.
Despite setbacks caused by the low water level on the Mississippi River and a mid-October windstorm that blew over the port’s 40,000-square-foot warehouse, members of the port authority appeared pleased with the progress on the project.
Williamson told The Messenger after Wednesday’s meeting he is “really excited” about finally getting the port opened sometime in early March 2013.
“We’ve been working on this for such a long time,” he said.
Williamson has been involved with the Cates Landing project since 1999.
Sanders used a slide show presentation to update the port authority on construction work going on at the port site north of Tiptonville. Sanders continues to represent Forcum Lannom Contractors of Dyersburg, which is the acting general contractor for the Cates Landing project.
“Things are still moving along pretty well, with the exception of the low water,” he said.
He showed where all the rip-rap has been installed along the bank at the port site. The modular port office is also set up on the site. He said work on a canopy, ramp, porch and a storm shelter is under way. Work on the dock area is on hold until river dredging resumes or the Mississippi River rises.
Also, Sanders said work on the 40,000-square-foot warehouse at the port site has resumed after strong winds on Oct. 14 blew the warehouse frame down. He said a $91,000 insurance claim has already been approved for the damage.
In other developments related to the port:
• Lannom estimated it will take $1 million to develop a railroad line to the port site.
“We were hoping to get that in the governor’s (2013) budget,” he said.
• Mike Philpot, executive director of the West Tennessee Industrial Association, announced he is working with a WTIA consultant to develop a “matrix” for the recently approved Foreign Trade Zones.
“We’ve already received some phone calls from existing companies,” he said.
Philpot said accounting and legal firms, which represent industrial prospects, are being targeted.
He praised the port authority and specifically Lannom’s work on the FTZ application for getting it approved. Lannom’s research and a letter of support were described as “key” to getting federal approval of the application.
Richard Arnold, who represents Obion County on the port authority, requested an outline of the port board’s responsibilities as they relate to the trade zone.
“That’s sort of what we’re working on,” Lannom said.
He went on to describe the port’s FTZ status as “a very valuable economic tool for all of West Tennessee.”
• Forcum Lannom was approved to help market the port to industrial prospects. The Dyersburg firm is already working with Lake County to market the port site to prospects.
• A marketing plan from informa economics is expected to be presented to the port authority by the first of the year, according to Williamson.
“I think we need to start thinking seriously about hiring a port director,” said Williamson, noting that person would work directly with the port board as well as with the port operator on the management of the port.
Williamson said he would work on appointing a committee to select a port director.
• The fall 2012 issue of Area Development magazine features an article about Tennessee’s efforts to recruit new industry to the state and in the article, Cates Landing is spotlighted.
“One new initiative under way is the development of a new port along the Mississippi River in Lake County. The port will be in proximity to major interstates including I-40, I-55 and I-69,” the article states in part.
“We have big plans for that area, and we think this is going to be a major attraction for companies coming into Tennessee,” Brock Kingsley is quoted in the article. He is one of the top officials with the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
• The port authority’s next scheduled meeting is set for 9 a.m. Dec. 12 at the Obion County Public Library.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 11.16.12