PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's a sign you don't see very often these days: Now Hiring.
But that's just what a Pascagoula shipyard is doing.
VT Halter Marine has hired some 400 new workers since July and is looking to hire 150 more. Despite the struggling economy, the company has a backlog of ship building business until 2013.
Giant hulls of steel fill the shipyard at VT Halter's Pascagoula facility. In these uncertain economic times, the marine construction company is doing far more than simply surviving.
"We have a backlog of work right now to 2013, which we're very fortunate. If you look at the amount of backlog that we have, we've been able to bring on 400 additional employees since July. And in the next six months we intend to bring on an additional 150 new employees," said Halter CEO, Bill Skinner.
ATB's are among the large vessels Halter is building: articulated tug barge units.
The combination tug boat barges will eventually be used to transport oil or chemicals.
Capital improvements in recent years have allowed the ship builder to compete for contracts to build even bigger vessels.
"We've put a lot of capital expenditure into our tilt beam launch system, which now allows us to build vessels up to almost 700 feet in length," Skinner explained.
"We're running the generators, setting up for the load test," said longtime Halter employee, David Newell.
Newell is a 30 year employee of the shipyard. He credits VT Halter's emphasis on quality control for attracting repeat customers.
"We've got a good team. We've got a fine management team. They've kept us busy for the 30 years that I've been here. And we have a good backlog of work. We have knowledgeable people. We seem to satisfy our customers, because we have repeat customers here," he said.
"We have a lot of projects that we're bidding on right now. And we expect to build our backlog well beyond 2013. We're excited about the future. We're very fortunate to have the backlog that we have. We're fortunate to have all our good employees that make up the strong Halter organization," said Skinner.
Along with hiring new workers, VT Halter is also expanding its facilities.
The company was awarded a five million dollar community development block grant through the Mississippi Development Authority. That money will be used to construct a new fabrication building.