St. John Enterprises Inc. said it will build barges at a new facility in northeast Louisiana.
The company will spend approximately $32 million to upgrade Madison Parish Port Commission facilities in Tallulah, La., formerly occupied by Northrup Grumman, according to St. John’s CEO Ron Lewis.
The new venture, to be called River Masters Shipyard, is expected to create about 450 jobs over the next five years, Lewis said.
In early October, the yard had only six employees, but Lewis said that number would swell to about 100 by the time the yard opens in late October. “We’re just waiting for the underwriter to get everything in order so we can take over the property,” said Lewis. “We expect to have the plant online and two new hopper barges under construction by October 25, with a delivery date in late February 2012.”
Lewis said he plans to recruit workers cut loose by Northrop Grumman in Tallulah last year.
Louisiana offered an incentive package that includes customized recruitment and training solutions at no cost through the state’s FastStart-LED’s workforce development program. If St. John meets annual job and payroll targets, the company will receive a $1.4 million performance-based grant to be paid in annual installments over the next decade. St. John is also expected to take advantage of the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption and Quality Jobs incentive programs.
“I could have gone to Texas, Florida, or Alabama, but Louisiana went out of its way to get us here,” said Lewis.
Lewis said he has a contract to build six new 195’×35′ deck barges for a customer in the sand and gravel business. “We’ve got about five years worth of work here,” he said, “because we’ll also be building some 39-foot and 49-foot aluminum workboats for the fishing industry.”