Shipyard And Yacht Builder Seek Grants

"We're in the process now of spending in upwards of $65-70 million developing this property," said Roger White, as he briefed Harrison County supervisors on the big plans his company has for its new shipyard off Seaway Road.

Gulf Ship is seeking a $10 million grant to help pay for a launch facility on Industrial Seaway. That will help triple its existing work force, from the current 190 workers, to nearly 600.

"We think the work ethic is very strong. We think the skilled labor force is available. If it hadn't been for Katrina and Rita, we wouldn't have the issues today of labor. But we think in the long term, and we're here for the long term, we're going to solve those issues," said a confident White.

Gulf Ship designs, builds and operates its own fleet of vessels. White says Alaska is the new frontier for future business.

"It is environmentally sensitive. It's politically sensitive. But there's a huge amount of potential oil reserve there. In fact, it's been said that the potential oil reserve there could be as great as the Gulf of Mexico," he told supervisors.

Gulfport-based Trinity Yachts is courting business around the world.

"As we get into the mainstream market, the demand is going to get higher. And consequently, the size is getting higher," said Trinity Yachts spokesman Billy Smith.

Trinity already builds luxury yachts in the range of 150 to 250 feet long. But it's starting to get orders for 300 footers and above. That's why a three million dollar grant to help cover two launch sites is critical.

"Once the boats are launched, we can put them under cover and continue our flow of work, so that we can further expand the facility," Smith explained.

Trinity expects its current payroll of 500 workers could easily increase to a thousand.

"The facility has got room to basically double the employment that's currently there, without us doing any further expansion. And we've got the room to expand," said Smith.

Along with the grant request, Trinity Yachts is seeking a $2 million capital improvement loan from the Mississippi Development Authority.

A public hearing on the grant proposals is set for March 21st.