The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway can be gateway to global economy

Contact: Carol Gifford

STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway is an engine for economic development with great potential for future growth, said Domenico “Mimmo” Parisi, executive director of the National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center, or NSPARC, a research unit of Mississippi State University.

Parisi’s remarks, delivered Thursday [Aug. 27] at the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway Development Opportunities Conference in Point Clear, Ala., were based on a recent economic analysis of the Tenn-Tom Waterway produced by NSPARC.

The Tenn-Tom is a 234-mile manmade waterway that connects the Tennessee and Tombigbee Rivers and runs through Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and opened in 1985, the Tenn-Tom creates a 1,300-mile water system between the Ohio River and Gulf of Mexico.

“The Tenn-Tom Waterway was strategically planned to create an economy around it,” said Parisi, a sociology professor at MSU.

The waterway primarily provides a cost-effective and safe way to transport goods, Parisi said. Shipments are increasing and more diverse commodities are being shipped on the Tenn-Tom due to the development of advanced manufacturing nearby, including automotive, aerospace, chemical, petroleum product and hydropower firms.

“For every federal dollar spent [for the Tenn-Tom’s commercial navigation], an additional $3.54 is returned to the treasury, resulting from local, state, and federal tax revenues and annual economic output,” he said. “The Tenn-Tom is also responsible for more than 24,000 full-time jobs, developing a middle-skill workforce, and supporting an education system of 23 community colleges and 14 universities.”

The Tenn-Tom is poised to capitalize on growth in manufacturing in other parts of the country, added Parisi, citing the rapid growth of a variety of advanced chemical and plastic manufacturing facilities located on the Ohio River basin. He said the Tenn-Tom is uniquely positioned to emerge as the prime means for transporting chemical and plastic goods from Ohio River-based facilities to the Gulf of Mexico.

Outdoor recreation represents another major contribution from the Tenn-Tom, Parisi said. More than 1.7 million annual visitors to the Tenn-Tom region take part in fishing, boating and water activities, camping, hiking picnicking, sightseeing, and hunting.

Parisi said that for every federal dollar spent on recreation around the Tenn-Tom, $1.22 is returned to the treasury from tax revenues, job creation and personal income.

Parisi also discussed other uses of the Tenn-Tom, including water for residential and commercial use, water for irrigation of farmland and infrastructure, and flood control.

“The Tenn-Tom impacts 17 metro areas, 111 counties and 6 million people,” said Parisi. “With expansive room for growth and more investment, the waterway can be the centerpiece of multi-state regional opportunities and become a gateway to the global economy.”

For more about NSPARC, visit www.nsparc.msstate.edu. Parisi may be reached at 662-325-9242.

MSU, Mississippi’s flagship research institution, is online at www.msstate.edu.