BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Ingalls Shipyard does business with about 1500 suppliers spanning the globe. The company spends about a billion dollars a year on those supplies. In tough economic times, that money has to be spent wisely.
That was the theme of a first ever conference held Monday between the shipyard and its suppliers. The room at the IP Casino was packed with the power players of the shipbuilding industry: From those who actually build the ships to the people who give them the tools to do it.
One word was repeated over and over again: Affordable.
"We're in an environment today we absolutely need to be able to sell the Navy more affordable ships," explained Irwin Edenzon, President of Ingalls Shipbuilding. "These partners of ours represent almost 50 percent of the cost of our ships and we can't do it without them. So we're enlisting their support when we're designing and building ships."
At the supplier conference Monday, the message was crystal clear from officials with Ingalls and even from Congressman Steven Palazzo. These are austere days when it comes to defense spending and we have to build these ships better, faster, and even more importantly, cheaper.
It was a message that the suppliers heard. Mike Miller is one of them.
"It's about affordability and commonality and how we build ships cheaper and how we get that message out through the vendor base and how we support the supplier base going forward," Miller said.
One way to go forward is to look at the entire operational chain of the shipbuilding industry.
Mark Haller is another Ingalls supplier.
"In our situation, we've actually done some engineering to see if we can take costs out of our products, which we've been able to do. So there's ways that we can do that and support the shipyard and shipbuilding as a whole," Haller said.
But there were some critics of all this cost cutting talk. One of them is South Mississippi Congressman Steven Palazzo.
"We're having the most serious cuts to our nation's military after we've been a nation at war for 12 years. I've never seen it this fast, I've never seen it this deep," Palazzo lamented. "It's dangerous and disastrous. We need to making sound investments in our defense."
But those investments will now have to be done within the new economic realities.
About 120 people, the vast majority of them owners and executives of supply companies, attended Monday's conference.