PASCAGOULA, Miss. (WLOX) - Kari Wilkinson took over the role of executive vice president of Huntington Ingalls Industries and president of HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding division at the beginning of April.
As the president of Ingalls, Wilkinson faces a challenging role, leading Ingalls Shipbuilding into the future by securing new shipbuilding contracts and growing the workforce.
Wilkinson believes recruiting new employees starts with enhancing safety measures in the shipyard.
“We’re going to continue to do the things that we do well today and focus on the opportunities to enhance that and improve that going forward,” Wilkinson said. “With all of the new team members that we’ll have, the diversity of thought, we can bring a lot of ideas to bear on what we do.”
As Ingalls continues to grow, Wilkinson said the East Bank of Ingalls is now fully operational and allows for more efficient production.
“We have an operational pier and so we move ships that are close to delivery, or after delivery, so they have their own home,” Wilkinson said. “Ships Force has close-end parking, and so it keeps the efficiency, it keeps those ships protected and gives us an opportunity to do good work and get those ships ready to sail away.”
Over the last 25 years, Wilkinson has worked in multiple roles at Ingalls, even gaining experience building customer relationships as the principal liaison to the Navy and Coast Guard. Those relationships are now vital in helping to secure new contracts as the workforce continues to grow.
“We’re working really hard on a number of new contracts right now,” Wilkinson said. “We have a tremendous backlog, but we’re looking out five, ten, 15, 20 years into the future and how do we sustain Ingalls as a place in the community that is stable, that provides opportunities in local communities.”
Creating opportunities extends beyond just forging additional shipbuilding contracts. Wilkinson said she also strives to build a stronger relationship with communities on the Gulf Coast.
“The community is the shipyard, the shipyard is the community, and so those relationships are incredibly important,” Wilkinson said. “We’re actively right now reaching out to make sure that those connections are strong and find other opportunities to collaborate along the Gulf Coast.”
Wilkinson said she hopes to build on Ingalls’ successful shipbuilding legacy and provide opportunities for team members to forge their own legacy with Ingalls.