Jefferson Parish leaders optimistic about Avondale study - - The News for South Mississippi

Jefferson Parish leaders optimistic about Avondale study

AVONDALE, LA (WVUE) - The owner of Avondale Shipyard will partner with an energy industry giant to explore ways to bring hundreds of jobs back to the shipyard that stretches along the Mississippi River, and Jefferson Parish political and business leaders are thrilled.

Avondale was once the largest private employer in the state. The shipbuilding facility propelled thousands of workers into the middle class, but it is no longer the job producer it once was. But Friday brought a new glimmer of hope for reviving Avondale.

"We've been working with Huntington-Ingalls, and Avondale executives to explore all kinds of different possibilities," said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

Huntington Ingalls, which owns Avondale, will conduct a six-month study with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P. to probe possibilities for infusing new life into Avondale.

"We're glad that keeping the pressure on Huntington to come up with a plan, and Kinder-Morgan now stepping in to it, we're encouraged by that," said Young.

It was welcome news for Todd Murphy, president of the Jefferson Chamber.

"A very large facility that really needs this study to come in and hopefully this is something that's really the beginning that will bring back those high quality jobs," said Murphy.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, encouraged the two companies to explore ways to create 1,000 jobs for Avondale and also build more pipelines along the Gulf Coast.

"It's my understanding that it's a thousand, real quality, high-paying jobs, so it's the beginning of something great," Murphy said.

Young said myriad uses for Avondale will be considered.

"One could be to continue to manufacture, to go after the oil industry and the fabrication of offshore platforms, as well as fabrication of modular units for all of the investment up and down the Mississippi River," he said.

Parking lots outside the facility on Bridge City Avenue that once were filled with hundreds of vehicles are empty.

"It has really dried up a lot of that area. We need to bring that back," said Murphy.

At one time, Avondale reportedly had more than 25,000 workers. In 2010, there were 5,000 employees, and today, about 740, according to Huntington-Ingalls.

And now parish leaders are optimistic of a possible comeback, albeit not a return to the heyday of Avondale.

"What this shows is we now have a concrete path forward that will hopefully bring some economic development opportunities,a nd some additional job opportunities," said Young.

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