JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) -There are now 745 million reasons for Jackson County residents to smile. That’s the initial dollar amount of the contract between VT Halter Marine and the Coast Guard to build a polar security cutter for the service. That deal was in the spotlight Thursday at an annual meeting for business movers and shakers.
You’re going to be seeing and hearing a lot more pounding and welding at VT Halter Marine in the near future. The contract was the topic of conversation at every table for the event hosted by the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation. It’s a very big deal.
“This contract is absolutely transformational for VT Halter Marine," said Jackson County Economic Development Director George Freeland. "It allows the company to turn a corner in moving forward to sustain success and employment.”
This puts the company in the international shipbuilding spotlight, according to VT Halter CEO Ron Baczkowski.
“This means that we’ll be supporting the the U.S. in its national security strategy. Also, this provides jobs for to over 900 new employees at VT Halter in the next nine years," he said.
He added those jobs are coming fast.
“Hiring will start immediately for professional services such as the engineers and administrative people that do contracts. Then in about 18 months, we’ll start bringing in our trade crafts where we ramp up our production staff," Baczkowski said.
The national defense is also being ramped up with construction of the icebreakers.
“This is all part of our 355 ship Navy designed to get us back and get us into contention for being able to project power and protect American interests around the world,” Sen. Roger Wicker explained.
For everyone in the room, the irony was not lost for a state with workers in the deep south to be building a ship for the Coast Guard that actually breaks ice in the Arctic.
“Hey, we can do it all here, and less than the irony, it speaks to our capabilities," Freeland said. "As we always say, successes don’t just happen. They’re not by happenstance.”
Shipbuilding skills are now the latest example.
The contract between VT Halter and the Coast Guard has an option for two more polar security cutters, so the total amount of the contract could be as much a $1.9 billion.