NEW ORLEANS — There is a new push to attract jobs and manufacturing to the old Avondale Shipyard complex on the west bank of Jefferson Parish.
Friday, state and local leaders were on hand to officially declare the facility reopen for business.
“We’re looking forward,” Gov. John Bel Edwards, D-Louisiana said. “We’re not looking back. This is not all about nostalgia. This is about the real potential or the real promise of what is going to happen here.”
The newly minted Avondale Global Gateway was once home to the largest private employer in Louisiana.
At its peak, 26,000 workers were on site, building ships for the military and other customers.
It closed in 2010 and T Parker Host bought the mothballed facility in 2018. Host has now spent about $100 million redeveloping the site.
That includes three new ship-to-shore cranes, refurbished berths for cargo vessels, and a new rail loading facility.
“Our goal is to have tenants who are adding value and that means either repackaging, processing, building, assembling things right here on site from raw materials and then delivering them via the road and rail and river system,” T. Parker Host CEO Adam Anderson said.
Economic development at the Avondale waterfront industrial park was hampered by record high water on the Mississippi two years ago, the Covid-19 pandemic, and last year’s Hurricane Ida.
The storm caused about $15 million in damage to the site.
Avondale now has about 300 employees who mostly handle cargo for two to three ships per week.
“My father worked out here in the 60s and we’ve been having a good time working out here for T. Parker Host,” Gerry Washington said.
“We’re looking for the growth and it’s a pleasure working with all these people, you know,” Derrick Smith said. “It’s back in business, back in stride.”
Governor Edwards expects the workforce at Avondale to grow by the end of the year.
He also confirmed Louisiana has reached out to billionaire businessman Elon Musk, who just so happens to be looking for a location for a Gulf Coast manufacturing hub.
“There are conversations with him because he’s looking at one in Texas and he’s looking at a site in Louisiana, so those conversations are happening,” Edwards said. “He’s actually looking for places to manufacture components for electric batteries.”
While Musk may or may not have his sights set on Avondale, leaders do expect to welcome some new tenants there in the coming months.