NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It’s hard to miss the towering equipment sitting idle at the once-thriving Avondale Shipyards along the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish.
"Far as my craft in pipe, it was good when I first came there,” said Frank Waller, who worked at Avondale for 23 years and retired early as a foreman when it was clear that the sprawling job provider would close. "It took a lot away from the people that were working there. Had a lot of young people that came in and didn’t have enough time in to retire.”
The latest effort to revitalize the site is getting closer to completion. The company behind the venture is Avondale Marine, LLC., a partnership between the companies T. Parker Host and Hilco.
“What they’re attempting to do at that site is to take that site, which has some unique attributes to it, the Port facility, the rail road, the roadways, and be able to capture the cargo coming in off of the river, but also do the value-added manufacturing at that site. And that’s where the real job creation comes from,” said Jerry Bologna, CEO of JEDCO, the economic development entity for Jefferson Parish.
Tuesday evening, the Board of Commissioners for the Port of New Orleans and New Orleans Public Belt Railroad voted in favor of resolutions authorizing cooperative endeavor agreements to facilitate the redevelopment of the old Avondale site. The CEA involving the port will allow Avondale Marine to operate within the port’s jurisdiction.
Hungtington-Ingalls owns the closed shipyard, and the sale to Avondale Marine is pending.
Still, Bologna is more than optimistic.
“It’s tremendously exciting," Bologna said. "This has been one of the most complex projects we’ve ever worked on. There are so many layers, both at the federal, state, and here at the local level, and so many people have been playing a part in this.”
"It’s just a big empty yard there, and it would be good if they can get something to build everything back up around this area business-wise. You had a lot of places closed down because the shipyard,” said Waller.
And while the new venture does not promise the 20,000-plus jobs Avondale had during its heyday, people who still have a strong affinity for the former shipyard said they welcome any return to commerce.
“It’ll help out, a little bit. A little bit is better than nothing,” Waller said.
And the hope is that before long, the site will again have activity.
"And really get at least one of those berths reopened and start generating revenues and commerce and creating jobs at that site here before the end of the year,” said Bologna.
The new venture is supposed to create 2,500 direct jobs and about that many in indirect jobs.