The Columbus Lock & Dam is pictured in this file photo. Photo by: Matt Garner/Dispatch Staff
April 13, 2012 12:25:32 PM
Renasant Bank Senior Vice President Bobby Harper recently was appointed by Gov. Phil Bryant to the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Authority Board of Directors.
"Serving on this board will be a new experience," Harper said. "There will be a learning curve, but I look forward to being involved and working with the members of the four-states making up the compact. The Waterway is one of our most important assets for stimulating much needed economic growth. This year alone, the Waterway's lower cost and more energy efficient transportation services will help bring nearly $1 billion of new industrial development to Mississippi. Its unique water-related recreation facilities attract nearly 3 million visitor days annually, generating nearly $150 million of additional spending each year. By the four states working together, the Tenn-Tom Authority has played an important role in helping to bring these regional benefits to fruition."
Lowndes Board President and District 1 Supervisor Harry Sanders said Harper is the right man for the job.
"(Bobby Harper) is an ambassador for the Tenn-Tom and an ambassador for Columbus and Lowndes County," Sanders said. "He has been a public servant for years. He's perfect for the job. He's very familiar with the economic impact the river has on the area. He's an excellent appointee."
Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Nancy Carpenter also praised Harper's appointment.
"I think its wonderful," she said. "There is no one more special than (Bobby Harper). He is deserving of any honor he receives. He and his wife, Jo, have been very important to this community."
Nick Ardillo, T. L. "Bud" Phillips of Columbus, Martha Segars of Iuka, Bill Cleveland of Tupelo and Dale Pierce of Aberdeen also represent Mississippi on the board.
The Waterway connects the Tennessee River in Northeast Mississippi to the Tombigbee River in West Central Alabama and serves as an alternate route to the Gulf of Mexico.
"The project was started during the Nixon administration," Rick Saucer, Operations Manager for the US Army Corp of Engineers Mobile District said of the Tenn-Tom Waterway. "It was completed in 1985. The grand opening was in June of 1985, but it was opened to traffic in January of 1986. The actual Tenn-Tom goes from a junction on the Black Warrior River in Demopolis, Ala. up to Pickwick in Tennessee."
Saucer said the river was very important for local industry and job creation in Lowndes County.
"While the Waterway hasn't lived up to its expectations as far as tonnage on the river goes, it has been very good for economic development and job creation," he explained. "There are currently nine to ten ports along the Waterway, including the one in Lowndes County."
Columbus-Lowndes Development Link CEO Joe Higgins noted the Waterway was a key factor in attracting several industries.
"I can tell you straight up; we would not have secured Severstal if it weren't for the Waterway," Higgins said. "It's also been very important to Weyerhaeuser. They also wouldn't have come without it. Kior selected its site specifically because it is on the river. It is a very important part of what makes us successful."
Carpenter also stressed the importance of the Waterway for its ability to attract tourists to Lowndes County.
"One of our biggest advantages as far as being a destination for tourists is the waterway," Campbell said. "People that participate in fishing tournaments stay at our hotels and eat in our restaurants. But people also use the river for recreation on a daily basis. It is an extremely important part of our community," she added.
The Tenn-Tom Authority is a four-state compact comprised of the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The U.S. Congress authorized the interstate compact to promote and market the waterway and it's economic and trade potential to the region and the nation. The four state governors serve as members of the Authority, along with five other appointed members from each state.