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Owner hopes for energy construction at Avondale

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. thinks the energy business might save the jobs of the 2,000 engineers and crafts people remaining at its Avondale shipyard.

Vice President Chris Kastner said Tuesday the company is bidding on oil and gas infrastructure projects and will open a Houston office on March 1 to be closer to potential customers and partners.

He says he cannot promise that Avondale will stay open after the end of this year, when it is scheduled to shut down. But he says that if they get the new work, they're in business.

About 5,000 people worked at Avondale in 2010, when Northrop Grumman Corp. announced that it was spinning off Virginia-based Huntington Ingalls. About 2,600 worked there last July.

FOX 8 News received this press release from the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu Tuesday:

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., and U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, D-La., today said they were encouraged by Huntington Ingalls' announcement that they are opening an office dedicated to finding new business for Avondale shipyard.  Specifically, Huntington Ingalls is pursuing opportunities to transition the shipyard for work in the energy infrastructure market.  Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Richmond have been instrumental in the effort to keep Avondale open, and recently met with President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls, Mike Petters, to discuss the future of the facility.  

"I am very encouraged that Huntington Ingalls has opened an office specifically to find new business opportunities for Avondale.  It is important that our highly skilled shipbuilders have the opportunity to continue doing what they have always done - contributing to our economy and national security. Oil and gas infrastructure manufacturing at Avondale would be a welcome addition to our strong energy industry in Louisiana. As we have for years, Rep. Richmond and I will continue working with Huntington Ingalls and the other involved stakeholders to keep Avondale open for business and contributing to our country," Sen. Landrieu said.  

"I am proud that after much deliberation, Huntington Ingalls is taking concrete steps to keep Avondale's workers on the job," Congressman Richmond said. "From back home in Louisiana to the floor of the House of Representatives, I have argued that Louisiana and more specifically the workers at Avondale are the best in the world. While obstacles to a ‘new' Avondale remain, I look forward to working with the business community and officials at all levels to ensure that Avondale continues as one of Louisiana's leading employers and manufacturers. Today's announcement is a testament to the work product of thousands of Avondale employees and the dedicated efforts of state officials, local officials and our congressional delegation."

As part of their work to keep Avondale open, in 2011 Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Richmond sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, saying that incentivizing closure of the shipyard with taxpayer dollars was "unacceptable."  Additionally, Sen. Landrieu spoke with Sec. Mabus to ensure that he understood the importance of this facility to the economy of southeast Louisiana.  Shortly after, Sen. Landrieu and Rep. Richmond received confirmation from the Navy that any federal funds provided for the closure and conversion of the Avondale Shipyard could be used for partnerships designed to bring more work to the facility.

Previous interpretations of the Federal Acquisition Regulations indicated that money identified for closure and conversion costs would only be given to the owners of the Avondale shipyard upon closure of the facility.  This assurance from the Navy allowed Huntington Ingalls to apply these costs to conversion of the yard for commercial purposes while pursuing different opportunities to keep Louisiana's shipbuilders employed.

In September 2010, Sen. Landrieu announced key commitments from the U.S. Navy to help protect thousands of jobs at Avondale shipyard.  Sen. Landrieu secured a guarantee from the Navy to move up construction of double-hulled tankers from 2017 to 2014 and the guarantee that two LPD ships currently under construction at Avondale will be completed there.

Also in 2010, Sen. Landrieu wrote a letter to Sec. Mabus urging the Navy to consider future and alternative uses for Avondale. Among the alternatives suggested, Senator Landrieu pushed the Navy and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding to consider options all possible options to keep the shipyard open. (Information in this story complied by FOX 8 and The Associated Press.)


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