Profile 2021: Influence of Vicksburg’s port has global reach
Tucked away on the Yazoo Diversion Canal, the Port of Vicksburg does not sit in view of those driving the interstate and, aside from the thousands of people employed at industries located within the port, it remains a bit out of sight, out of mind for many who live in Vicksburg and Warren County.
But, the Port of Vicksburg is a major driver of not just Vicksburg and Warren County’s economy. It has grown to become a major factor in Mississippi’s economic development.
“I think most people, including me before moving to Vicksburg, do not realize the variety and amount of materials and cargo that come through our community,” Vicksburg Warren County Economic Partnership CEO and President Pablo Diaz said. In his role in leading the Partnership, Diaz also serves as executive director of the Warren County Port Commission. “Anything from oil products, wood products, steel, aluminum, construction products, and agricultural products among many others make their way through our port and our community, sustaining jobs for thousands of people employed in the companies that manufacture, move, or sell these products. Although this might come as a surprise, it really should not when you think about the uniqueness of Vicksburg and its strategic location on the Mississippi River and with access to both Class I railroad service and Interstate.”
One of the biggest economic development stories of 2020 was the work by Diaz, Mayor George Flaggs Jr., Warren County Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland, and others to develop a new port facility or expand the existing facility off of Haining Road.
That work follows an in-depth research analysis that showed the port has tremendous potential in growing its operations and reach by expanding or adding a new facility.
“Shipments reach any geographic location, including both regional markets like Alabama and Louisiana, all the way to Japan, Germany or Australia,” Diaz said of the scope and reach of the port’s operations. “It really all depends on who is moving what, but at the end of the day, Vicksburg is a player in regional, national and global trade.”
In 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic impacted the entire economy — including those sectors dependent on the Port of Vicksburg. During the year, the port received 127,326 tons of materials and products, compared to 195,618 in 2019 and 201,269 in 2018.
Some of the products brought in include oil, lime, metal scrap, wood products, specialty industrial oils, aluminum, ammonium nitrate, aluminum ingots, titanium ore, soybeans and more.
“The types of products or materials that come through the Port of Vicksburg change according to what is going on in the national and international economy. We are lucky to have a big presence of oil-related industries in Vicksburg, but the amounts and types of products that get shipped from our area are affected by the demand and price of oil,” Diaz said. “So, how much we ship and what materials get shipped is all tied to the economic health of the different trade sectors that utilize the river as a means of transportation.”
And that influence and impact on the local and regional economy are only expected to increase as economic development officials and community leaders look to expand the port’s facilities and capabilities.
“The Port of Vicksburg is one of the pillars of our local economic structure. There are over 4,000 jobs that depend on the economic impact generated from the companies located at the port. The port is an ecosystem and without it, most of the companies that are clustered in that part of Vicksburg would probably not be in Vicksburg at all,” Diaz said. “I believe that port infrastructure in Vicksburg is essential to the future of our community.”