Metal Shark Aluminum Boats is investing about $1.5 million in expansion plans that may include expanding its current facilities, establishing a second yard, or both. About half of the funding for Jeanerette, La.-based shipyard’s expansion will come from the state of Louisiana.
Metal Shark will continue production of its major U.S. Coast Guard Response Boat — Small contract, fulfilling an order for nearly 500 of the new RBSes for the Coast Guard's Homeland Security response, and the expansion will boost production of more than two dozen other models ranging in size from 16' to 60'.
“We’ve got a good backlog of work, but we’re working on a contract — it’s not a done deal yet — that would involve a bigger boat and a different configuration than the boats we’re now building,” said Jimmy Gravois, one of Metal Shark’s owners. “Right now we trailer the boats we build to the water. This new boat would require us to be next to the water.”
The Louisiana Economic Development (LED) sent out a statement saying that the expansion will create 88 new direct jobs, with an average salary of more than $62,000, plus benefits, and LED estimates the project will result in an additional 134 new indirect jobs, for a total of 222 new jobs. The project will also create 25 construction jobs while retaining 144 existing Metal Shark employees.
Gravois said the Port of Iberia, La., is currently turning 100 acres of property into new tracks and digging a new slip. “That’s certainly one place we’re looking at,” he said. “We take our boats there now to launch them anyway.”
In May 2012, Louisiana Gov. Gov. Jindal dedicated a previous expansion of Metal Shark's facilities in Jeanerette, after the company was awarded the $192 million Coast Guard RBS contract in November 2011. The company is also building other boat classes for the Coast Guard, Navy, local law enforcement agencies and foreign agencies.
"Today's announcement is a win for Acadiana and our entire state,” Jindal said in the LED statement. “Metal Shark and other companies continue to invest and expand in Louisiana because of our strong business climate and our incomparable workforce.”
The state began working with Metal Shark on the current expansion project in November and will provide the company with a $750,000 Economic Development Loan Program award, along with the services of LED FastStart, the nation's top-rated state workforce development program. Metal Shark also is expected to utilize the state's Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs programs. Construction will begin later this year and hiring for Metal Shark's new jobs is under way.
"The continued support of Louisiana Economic Development has been key to Metal Shark's success over the past few years," Chris Allard, Metal Shark’s co-owner and president, said in a prepared statement. "These pro-business incentives will enable Metal Shark to sustain its rapid growth by doubling manufacturing capacity over the next 12 months and increasing workforce by at least 30 percent over the next four years. Metal Shark is excited to announce this major facilities expansion, creating the potential for the production of larger vessels greater than 50 feet in length."