Looking up at the bow of the USS Fort Worth in the hull block erection building at Marinette Marine, you feel like a minnow beside a whale. Climbing up two, three steep flights of steps to get inside, it’s hard to imagine that the navy considers this among its smallest class of ships.
A month before the scheduled Dec. 4 launch of Fort Worth, Marinette Marine’s second Littoral Combat ship swarms with workers. “Watch your step!” they caution as we climb through hatch doors, navigate around obstacles covered in white plastic, step over portholes in the floor, and cables – “800,000 feet of cables,” says our tour guide, Mike Metzger, director of production.
“Everybody is quite upbeat,” says Scott Hoyle, production manager, with us on the tour with
U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen. “Everybody here is very proud of what we do – very honored to be working on this project.”
“I will be a lot happier come Dec. 14,” Metzger adds. That’s the date the bid for more Littoral Combat ships was to expire if Congress should fail to approve the contract with Lockheed Martin and subcontractor Marinette Marine. Our tour followed the announcement that the navy had recommended approval for 20 more such ships, with half to be built by Marinette Marine and half by its rival for the original 10-ship contract, General Dynamics Corp. and Austal USA.
Everyone involved in landing the contract was confident it would happen, above all, Marinette Marine President Richard McCreary, who appears on this month’s cover. Kagen and sen. Herb Kohl told me Congress would likely approve it. The LCs contract would double employment at Marinette Marine to 2,000 jobs and potentially lead to 5,500 jobs for subcontractors and suppliers. And its southern competitor would keep and add jobs, as well.
Whatever happens, Marinette Marine is in a great position for growth. Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, which bought it from Manitowoc Company, along with Bay shipbuilding in sturgeon Bay in early 2009, has committed $100 million in expansion and improvements to its Wisconsin shipbuilding facilities.
The first two LCs contracts, as well as current and pending contracts with the navy and U.s. Coast guard, have given Marinette Marine a tremendous boost in its capabilities – not to mention greatly strengthened its relationships in Defense Department work, McCreary likes to add.Marinette Marine recently joined six other shipbuilders in northeast Wisconsin to form the north Coast Marine Manufacturing Alliance.
They’re partnering with northeast Wisconsin technical College and the University of Wisconsin-
Marinette to find synergies, such as workforce training. McCreary, who has also recently joined the new north, Inc. Board of Directors, will be tied up on the eve of the launch of USS Fort Worth, the day of the new north summit, which takes place on Dec. 3 at the KI Center in green Bay. (For an
update on what new north has accomplished this year, check out the 2010 new north Report to the Community, produced by Insight Publications and mailed with this issue of Insight.)
McCreary will, however, be among a panel of business leaders discussing the state of the northeast Wisconsin economy mid-month. The First Business Bank Economic survey Event takes place Thursday, Dec. 16, at Butte des Morts Country Club in Appleton. This is the third annual event, co-sponsored by Insight Publications. Other panelists will be Tom Boldt of The Boldt Company, Peter Helander of Heartland Business Systems, Karen Monfre of WIPFLI and Steve Morton
of Morton Drug Company.
The final results will be revealed at the event, but I can say that if the early indications hold, businesspeople in the new north are somewhat more optimistic about the coming year than they were a year ago, particularly in manufacturing.given the Defense contracts in the works at Marinette Marine and those underway at Oshkosh Corp., we have every reason to believe that the ripple effects will impact our entire region positively for some time to come.
A big splash, with ripples across the region