When it comes to shipyard jobs, Virginia is king

Newport News Shipbuilding employees decorate the then-aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) in ceremonial attire for its scheduled christening in November, 2013.


By HUGH LESSIG | Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) | Published: March 28, 2014

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A new survey ranks Virginia as the top state for shipyard jobs, and it's not even close.

The state leads the nation with more than 63,000 jobs related to shipbuilding, repair and maintenance, according to 2011 data consolidated from several studies and released by the American Maritime Partnership and the Shipbuilders Council of America.

The next closest state is California, with about 37,000 jobs. The Virginia ship industry pumps more than $5.5 billion into the state economy each year, the survey says.

"It is no surprise that Virginia leads the nation in U.S. shipbuilding, because one in every ninety jobs in the state is directly or indirectly related to the industry," said Matt Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America.

An example of a job indirectly related to shipbuilding would be a contractor that makes components for a ship, but does not work at shipyard.

The council and the partnership plan to release data from other states leading up to May 22, which is National Maritime Day.

Hampton Roads is home to Newport News Shipbuilding with 23,500 employees, the sole builder of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of two shipyards that builds nuclear submarines. A host of other yards in Tidewater handle ship overhaul, repair or maintenance. Notable employers include BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, General Dynamics-NASSCO, Davis Boat Works, Colonna's Shipyard, Lyon Shipyard Inc. and Marine Hydraulics International.

The survey's release comes as another group is lobbying Congress this week for a stable source of aircraft carrier funding.

Members of the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Coalition, which includes businesses in Hampton Roads, are concerned about a possible reduction in the U.S. aircraft carrier fleet from 11 to 10.

At issue is whether the USS George Washington will be refueled at Newport News Shipbuilding as originally planned, or retired. Navy leaders said they want to keep the GW in the fleet, but if across-the-board budget cuts return in 2016, they would have to retire it.

The refueling of an aircraft carrier takes nearly four years, and represents a sizable chunk of business not only for the shipyard, but for contractors and suppliers. The USS Abraham Lincoln is currently being refueled and overhauled in Newport News under a $2.6 billion contract. Typically, about 15 percent of that work goes to the shipyard's supplier base.

Carrier suppliers say they need certainty in funding just as the Navy does. That's especially true for small businesses that don't have a huge backlog of work.