NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) — Along the Mississippi River on the west bank of Jefferson Parish, giant yellow cranes signal the revival of business in what was once a major driver of Louisiana’s economy.
The former Avondale Shipyard, which helped thousands of blue-collar workers earn high wages, is now back in commercial operations with a grand reopening ceremony for what is now the Avondale Global Gateway.
Adam Anderson is chairman and CEO of T. Parker Host, which acquired the shuttered shipyard.
“In October 2018, we took ownership of this idle shipyard, which was covered in weeds, abandoned buildings and abandoned workspaces,” Anderson said. “Our vision is to turn this shipyard into an intermodal logistics hub, which means having ships, railcars, barges, taking advantage of the unique confluence of land, river, road and rail to not only handle cargo, but increase the flow of cargo. The value is there.”
As a shipyard, Avondale not only creates thousands of jobs, but also works for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Jerry Bologna is the CEO of the economic development entity JEDCO.
“As we all know, this site created the middle class in the region, employing thousands of people at a time. Some of the finest ships in the U.S. military are built here.”
Restoration of the sprawling property, including high river levels affecting construction, the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Ida, has not been smooth after the shipyard.
Still, T. Parker Host invested $100 million in rebuilding the site.
“When we took over here in 2018, there were four jobs on site, and now we have 300 full-time jobs here, and 500 people a day spend part of their workday directly here,” Anderson said.
Governor John Bel Edwards said Louisiana has strategic advantages, including the Mississippi River, and is seizing new opportunities.
“The Flatiron is hot, I’m excited, we’re shocked, not just at Avondale Marine, but the work we’re doing in ports all over Louisiana,” Edwards said.
Avondale Global Gateway accommodates more tenants.
“They need deep water, they need rail, they need all the infrastructure in Avondale, but our goal is for tenants to add value to the corridor, which means repackaging, processing, building, assembling things here from raw material to site and then by road , rail and river systems transport them to the rest of the United States,” Anderson said.
Edwards added: “This type of investment really gives us a solid foundation to get the most out of that.”
Some former Avondale Shipyards employees are now working for the new company, and some more skilled workers can earn up to $100,000 a year.
The state, Jefferson Parish and others were also critical in making the shipyard’s transformation a reality.
“The JEDCO Council and Jefferson Parish Council supported a competitive incentive package that helped facilitate Avondale Marine’s acquisition of the property, which was no easy feat,” Bologna said. “If you had been there, you would have known that it would require the engagement of the governor’s office, the port, the railroad, the Department of the Navy, the Corps of Engineers.”
Avondale Global Gateway is expected to eventually create 2,300 direct jobs as new tenants join.
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