Avondale's possible life after Navy shipbuilding

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wwltv.com

Posted on November 21, 2012 at 10:02 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 21 at 10:20 PM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

AVONDALE, La. -- The ship is about to sail for Avondale Shipyards on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish, not far from New Orleans.

Workers have one amphibious assault ship left to complete for the Navy before Huntington Ingalls closes the facility that once had the reputation of being Louisiana's largest private employer.

As the shipbuilder continues to whittle down its workforce, there is new talk about life after the Navy here.

"Huntington Ingalls has gotten more optimistic about not closing the shipyard themselves. They have some opportunities they're looking at," said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

Young said that means the shipbuilder may not close the facility in July of next year as originally planned.

"Right now there seems to be other opportunities that Huntington Ingalls is looking at."

The opportunities may include civilian shipbuilding and joint ventures on the property.

But for now welders, pipefitters and other skilled labor at Avondale watch their friends and co-workers leave the shipyard as their jobs are no longer needed.

They hope talk of an extended stay for Huntington Ingalls is true and not just wishful thinking.

"People really need the jobs here," said Avondale worker Walter Turner. "That's why we're trying to stay here and try to make everything work out."

"I hear a lot of things," said Avondale worker Donald Sam. "I hope it will stay open for a lot of people."

Regardless of whether Huntington Ingalls can keep some sort of presence at the Avondale Shipyards, Gov. Bobby Jindal and others are looking for multiple tenants to eventually occupy this site.

"We continue to have very good conversations, not only with Huntington Ingalls, but other potential tenants of that property, including shipbuilders and other manufacturers," said Jindal.

Huntington Ingalls' CEO Mike Petters addressed the possible future of Avondale this week on Bloomberg TV's "Capital Gains" program.

He said, "We are winding down a naval shipbuilding operation in Louisiana and we are looking pretty aggressively on how to redeploy that. It would certainly be healthy for our business to be involved in a business that is not the U.S. government. You are doing U.S. government work, we become very good at that, but when you're doing commercial work you become very good at other things. Kind of like going to the gym and starting a workout program. I think if you can find a set of customers that's different, that will help your government business as well, so we're thinking about that."

 

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