The St. Charles Parish area received some encouraging economic news this past week that a new occupant may become available for Avondale Shipyard.
Huntington Ingalls Industries announced Friday that it was undertaking a six-month study with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, a major pipeline and terminal company, to make use of the property which is next door to our parish.
In the past, many residents of St. Charles were employed by the shipyard, which claimed to be the largest employer in Louisiana before it began closing in 2010.
According to Jefferson Parish President John Young, both companies are very serious about the study and “have a serious game plan.” According to an article in The New Orleans Advocate, the study will encompass a range of potential uses for the shipyard, including manufacturing and terminal operations, according to Beci Bernton, corporate spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls. If a partnership proves to be economically viable, the two companies could form a joint venture to redevelop the site.
“We’ve been aggressively pursuing all opportunities to redevelop Avondale,” Bernton said.
The planned closing of the shipyard is in sharp contrast with the way the rest of southeast Louisiana is progressing economically. Plants along the Mississippi River have been built and existing ones have expanded, which have brought a wealth of new employment to the area. Add to that the widening of the Panama Canal to bring larger ships into the Gulf of Mexico, which will bring even more waterborn commerce and economic development to our area. In terms of providing access to populated areas in the world’s richest country, we have the world’s greatest river.
Only 740 people now work at Avondale where some 5,000 people worked before the closure began. That present number is expected to remain there throughout this year. The property use planned by Huntington and Kinder Morgan is expected to bring only about 1,000 more workers, but such a partnership could spur other developments on the site, according to Young. It could include more manufacturing and use of the space for warehouses.
Closedown of the shipyard in Avondale has certainly been a loss to the area, but southeastern Louisiana is not lagging in economic development. The future seems bright indeed as we keep hearing of other developments that could make our area one of the most productive in the country, if not the world.