BRIDGE CITY, LA (WVUE) - It was a haven for good paying jobs for decades, so could 2018 be the year the closed Avondale Shipyard is returned to commerce in Jefferson Parish?
There appears to renewed optimism that word could come soon on a possible sale of the sprawling shipyard along the Mississippi River.
"Putting that shipyard and that property back into commerce has been our number one priority for a couple of years," said Jerry Bologna, President and CEO of JEDCO, an economic development entity for Jefferson Parish.
Bologna would not talk specifics about who is interested in buying the 200-acre property, but he expects some movement before long.
"I would anticipate that some news will probably be made public towards the end of the first-quarter. I think that's what we're hoping to see," said Bologna.
Huntington Ingalls Industries currently owns Avondale, and while a spokeswoman refused to confirm the name of the prospective buyer, she did issue the following statement:
"As we disclosed in SEC filings last year, we have signed a purchase and sale agreement for the sale of the property, and while this is a positive step toward an eventual sale, a comprehensive due diligence process remains ongoing."
During its heyday, the shipyard thrived with lucrative Navy contracts and employed thousands.
Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul Johnston is eager to see redevelopment of the site.
"Avondale has been dormant for so many years, and we need to get some businesses in there, so we appreciate whoever coming in to build it back and put businesses in there would be great for our area," said Johnston.
Numerous jobs on the sprawling site is the goal.
"Not just putting it back into commerce, but maximizing the job creation there, that's where we're really headed. And we're reaching a critical time here as we push this across the finish line and a lot of moving parts but we're getting there," added Bologna.
Businesses along the River Road that once profited off the comings and goings of Avondale employees are now shuttered.
"Definitely we need the new business to come into the area, because the Bridge City area is really dying. It really needs some lift-up and some business to come in and bring back what it used to be when Avondale was there. It was a booming area at one time," Johnston stated.
The jobs and salaries Avondale Shipyard provided were life-changing for many families in the local area and beyond.
"Not only were so many people employed there, it really was one of the builders of the middle class of the entire New Orleans region, and I think that's what we would like to re-create," said Bologna.
"We look forward to it, and hopefully it will bring a lot of jobs, but if not, we'll take what we can get," said Johnston.
The state of Louisiana could play a major role in a cementing a deal for purchase and redevelopment of the site.
Don Pierson, Secretary of Louisiana Economic Development Department, issued a statement to FOX 8 News:
"Thank you for your interest in the Avondale property and the State of Louisiana's efforts to work with our partners in returning this key asset to commerce. For competitive reasons and to protect confidential company information, LED cannot comment specifically on current or potential prospects. What we can say about Avondale is that LED has worked diligently in recent years to market the site through global channels. With more than 250 acres and nearly 8,000 linear feet of deepwater access, the Avondale site can play a crucial role in building Louisiana's waterway logistics and the broader economy. Throughout this process, LED has been a strong advocate for attracting high-quality manufacturing and logistics jobs to the Avondale site. Our goal is to return as much employment as possible to the former shipyard, and to build as much new economic activity as we can for Jefferson Parish and surrounding areas. At the appropriate time, LED will work with Huntington Ingalls, our regional allies – including JEDCO, the Port of New Orleans and GNO Inc. – and a prospective buyer to maximize this important asset and place this valuable property back into active commerce. Any applicable incentives would be disclosed upon the parties reaching a successful negotiation."