By BECKY GILLETTE
PASCAGOULA—It has been a banner year for the state’s largest private employer, the Ingalls Shipbuilding division of Huntington Ingalls Industries. In September Ingalls was awarded a $5.1 billion fixed-price incentive, multiyear procurement contract for construction of six Arleigh Burke-class (DDG 51) Flight III destroyers for the U.S. Navy. That is in addition to a $1.43 billion contract awarded in April for detail design and construction of LPD 29, the 13th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.
Also, in 2018, the state of Mississippi approved the fourth element ($45 million) of a five-year, $200-million total investment in bond funds with a match from Ingalls of $400 million toward revitalizing of the west bank of Ingalls. There’s one $45 million increment left to be approved in 2019. Ingalls also announced it was spending $100 million to reopen the east bank, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“We are fortunate to be in the State of Mississippi,” said Ingalls Shipbuilding President Brian Cuccias. “Ingalls is blessed to be in such a great place. We get great support from the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker, legislators, and state agencies. The State is investing significant funding support, matched more than 2-to-1 by Ingalls, for our Shipyard of the Future modernization program. This modernization will make this shipyard the most modern in the country, if not the world. Our 80-year partnership with Mississippi has allowed us to put ourselves on a different playing field at a higher level than we would have been on otherwise.”
Ingalls has an estimated economic impact of more than $1 billion per year and employs between 11,000 to 12,000 people.
“The people of Ingalls are the reason for our success,” Cuccias said. “I’m really fortunate to lead the finest work force in the world that builds the best warships the world has even known. We have an amazing team of shipbuilders–craftsmen and women, engineers and technical professionals, and support personnel–who are performing great in what the yard does every day.”
Ingalls is a phenomenal asset not just for the state, but the country, Cuccias said. It builds almost 70 percent of the active U.S. surface warfare ships, four different classes of ships simultaneously.
“We are also very proud of our engagement with our community,” he said. “In addition to our community college work-force training programs, we recently reached out to area high schools and helped rebuild some of the career technical facilities at high schools in Pascagoula and Moss Point, as well as at Alma Bryant in Alabama. We have a great partnership with the high schools not only helping with technical training, but also with teaching students how to make good life decisions.”
Normally something like a $5.1 billion contract such as was announced in September would have garnered a great deal of press attention. But contracts this large are not unusual for Ingalls. They are not routine either, says Jerry St. Pe, who worked at Ingalls for 40 years, 16 years as CEO. St. Pe said the contracts demonstrate the extraordinary performance being recorded at the shipyard, and are a clear demonstration in the customer’s confidence in the shipyard’s continued ability to not only meet schedules, but also meet budget.
“That has been the hallmark of this shipyard’s success,” said St. Pe, who is also a former chairman of the Mississippi Gaming Commission. “There is no question the shipyard has been the trend setter for the standards for on-time, on-budget delivery of ships for both the Navy and the Coast Guard.”
While admitting that he is “sort of grading my own homework here,” St. Pe’s assessment is that the yard is performing at the best seen during its 80 years of operation.
“The shipyard has been from its outset the largest private employer in the State of Mississippi,” St. Pe said. “Clearly this backlog into billions of dollars provides job security well into the future. Not all employees live in Jackson County. The shipyard has a broad regional impact here in South Mississippi and across the state. The shipyard does business with dozens of suppliers across the state that provide services and materials to the shipyard. Its impact is far reaching. These recent contracts plus the backlog the yard already had and the business base shows a high level of confidence in the company and in the job security of the employees who work there.”
St. Pe also said the success of Ingalls shows the value of the state partnering with companies to encourage job creation and economic development. He said the shipyard’s long, strong partnering with the State of Mississippi goes back to the very beginning when one of the state’s first economic development efforts, Balance Industry With Agriculture, provided financial support when the shipyard was constructed in 1938.
“The partnership has continued throughout those 80 years,” St. Pe said. “The State of Mississippi has provided hundreds of millions in bond funds to match private capital Ingalls provided to modernize the shipyard. That is an important part of the story because it reflects that state bond money is producing what it is intended to produce.”
Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Scott Waller said over its history, Ingalls has hired about 180,000 people.
“There is no question that Ingalls it is one of bright shining stars that we have in terms of what it does for the state,” Waller said. “It has been there for 80 years. It is something that has been a stable part of our economy helping with jobs and careers for so many Mississippians doing work that is valuable to our nation’s defense. I think in some cases we don’t fully realize all the things it brings to the table. It is the largest single-site private employer in the state. The company has long helped drive the economy of the Coast while also impacting the entire state. I think what these new contracts speak to is the reliability of what they do so well, which continues to drive their success.”
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info