Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) president Mike Petters and state officials this afternoon to announce the state's commitment of $214 million in incentives to keep Avondale Shipyard open. But, Jindal said, "Our work is not done. I’m not declaring victory today, but it’s an important step forward."
Jindal called last year's closure announcement "a blow to the thousands of people who work at Avondale, to the communities that support the shipyard and indeed to our entire state." Jindal charged the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, Greater New Orleans Inc. and other local partners to secure incentive and jobs plans. The incentive package includes job creation credits and funds for modernization and workforce training. The shipyard's employment peak at more than 5,000 people dropped to less than 4,000 people since layoffs were announced last year. The incentive program aims to keep at least 3,850 jobs at the shipyard.
Petters said four conditions need to be met for a "complete solution" at Avondale: a venture partner, a sustainable marketplace, Navy support, and state incentives. "Two down," he said — the Navy announced last week the yard doesn't necessarily need to close to receive federal funds, and the state today gave it the thumbs up on its plan. Now with state and federal support, the shipyard needs a business partner in a worthwhile industry, but not necessarily shipbuilding. Jindal noted the yard could also go for nuclear, or oil and gas.
"Make no mistake, it’ll be challenging," Petters said. "Finding a credible partner in a sustainable market is never easy. I do know the incentive package from the state of Louisiana greatly strengthens our position. … We’ll leave no stone unturned in our search for success."
Avondale is expected to complete its current shipbuilding projects by 2013. Petters said the deal doesn't have a timeline, so it's unclear whether a plan will be in place before the closure date. HII isn't discussing the offers on its table, including the American Feeder Lines offer to build 10 cargo ships at the yard. "I'm not going to comment on any particular discussion or opportunity. I'm going to see how they all play out," Petters told Gambit.