While the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina continues to be memorialized in movies, songs and books, another storm is threatening to devastate the Gulf Coast with equivalent levels of economic devastation.
Thanks to the absence of public policy to preserve our nation’s manufacturing infrastructure, a plan is moving forward that could result in the closure of the Avondale Shipyard in New Orleans. Avondale is a major economic driver for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, providing billions in economic activity in addition to direct employment for 5,000 union workers, while supporting an additional 6,500 jobs in the surrounding area.
While Katrina was an epic natural disaster, spawned by forces beyond anyone’s ability to control, the same cannot be said about the storm approaching Avondale. Despite a concerted effort by labor and community activists to save the shipyard, the prime culprit in the effort to close Avondale is the yard’s current owner, Huntington Ingalls, which stands to be paid more than $100 million for closing the facility.
Under terms of a contract with the U.S. government, Huntington Ingalls would put up $190 million in initial closing costs, and would then receive $310 million in public money from the U.S. Navy.
The challenge of saving Avondale is compounded by the lack of incentives for companies to invest in U.S.-based manufacturing. Without incentives, or even encouragement, companies like Huntington Ingalls will continue to look beyond U.S. borders, while tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents are left to ponder a future without jobs, without prospects and without hope.