The wait may soon be over.
The U.S. Navy has submitted a proposal to Congress awarding Marinette Marine a contract to build 10 new Littoral Combat Shops, which has the potential to create 1,000 new jobs for the region’s shipbuilding industry.
The company has been waiting since last spring for a decision on the contract. The Navy’s proposal would divide the construction of 20 new ships between partners Marinette Marine and Lockheed Martin Corp. and Alabama-based Austal USA and its partner, General Dynamics Corp. Each partnership would be awarded one ship each in 2010 and 2011, and two ships per year from 2012 to 2015.
Marinette Marine expects the contract to double the company’s workforce from 1,000 to 2,000.
The contract is good news for more than just Marinette Marine. Thousands of jobs will likely be created at companies that supply Marinette Marine with parts and equipment.
“If approved by Congress, this new contract is great news for Marinette Marine, the New North and the state of Wisconsin,” says Jerry Murphy, executive director of New North Inc.
Northeast Wisconsin Technical College has been working with Marinette Marine and other shipbuilders in the New North. Because of changing workforce demographics – as well as the potential for new contracts that would grow the industry – NWTC partnered with state shipbuilders like Marinette Marine, Burger Boat, Carver Yachts, and others to establish a maritime alliance group and help the companies train a 21st Century workforce.
Starting in January, the college will offer two new programs – Marinette Marine Construction Technology and Marine Engineering Technology – which are specifically designed to train the next generation of workers in the industry. These programs are in addition to existing programming that supports skills needed for shipbuilding, including welding, fabrication and blueprint reading. NWTC has also submitted a federal grant proposal to construct a training center to meet workers’ needs.
If the Navy deal moves ahead, Marinette Marine’s economic impact may rival that of Oshkosh Corp. in the region. It’s something we’ll all be watching – and hoping – for.
–By MaryBeth Matzek