AVONDALE, La. — The Port of South Louisiana announced it is in the process of buying what was once Avondale Shipyard. Port leadership says it will mean faster expansion for the site, which was once the booming economic center of the region.
The shipyard opened in 1938. In its heyday, it employed almost 26,000 workers.
Andrew Cooms was one of them. He got a job at Avondale right after high school in 1971 and worked there until his retirement in 2013.
One year later, Avondale’s last ship shoved off and the shipyard closed. “It really affected a lot of businesses around there,” Cooms said.
The site was bought by the agency T. Parker Host a few years later. In 2018, the agency reopened the site as Avondale Global Gateway. A few hundred jobs have been brought back since then.
Thursday morning, the Port of South Louisiana released a statement, announcing it had entered into an agreement to buy Avondale Global Gateway. T. Parker Host will stay on as the terminal operator.
Port of South Louisiana CEO Paul Matthews says the port will focus on “trying to attract new cargo to Avondale that includes railroad vessels, car manufacturing, and to really play a role in renewable energy.” He believes the port’s resources and reach will help attract investors to Avondale.
“This is a win-win for everyone in the region,” said Matthews.
Leaders in the business community agree. “As the site continues to grow, to attract more investment, it’s going to mean more job opportunities,” said Jerry Bologna, CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission.
He elaborated on the port’s plan to focus on renewable energy. Besides the potential for shipping fuels, rechargeable batteries, and electric cars, the site “sets up great for the manufacture and shipping of wind blades into the gulf and out into the world,” he said.
Cooms thinks the Avondale name will be enough to draw people back. Despite some “ups-and-downs,” he has fond memories of his decades there. “It was a fun experience for me, it was new, when it was time to retire I didn’t wanna go,” he said.
He acknowledges that the site will likely never return to its former glory. But when asked if he believed some expansion would help the community, his answer was a resounding yes. “I definitely think the younger generation would go back. Watch, you’re gonna have some people coming back.”