Wisconsin will allot $31 million in its upcoming state budget to help Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s plan to expand its operations and bid for building the next Navy frigate class, a contract potentially worth $10 billion.

Gov. Tony Evers announced the plan at the shipyard Thursday, to help retain the shipyard’s 1,500-strong workforce and add another 400 jobs. Marinette has been building the Navy’s Freedom-variant of the littoral combat ship since 2010, while Austal USA, Mobile, Ala., builds the Independence-variant. The Navy wants to phase out that program to clear the way for larger, more heavily armed multimission frigates.

Austal is another contender for the frigate contract, to be awarded in late 2020 for up to 20 of the new ships. Other likely bidders are Huntington Ingalls Industries and Bath Iron Works of Maine.

Wisconsin will use bonds to raise the $31 million, which could help build new docks and dredge the Menominee River around the shipyard.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.