PANAMA CITY — Eastern Shipbuilding Group is one of three finalists vying for a $10.5 billion U.S. Coast Guard contract that could bring thousands of new jobs to Bay County.
The 20-year contract is for the development of 25 next-generation offshore patrol cutters for the Coast Guard.
“This is a huge deal, not just for Eastern Shipbuilding, but for Bay County and Northwest Florida,” said company President and CEO Brian D’Isernia. “That’s tremendous for jobs, for long-term jobs, so naturally we’re excited.”
Eastern is one of eight shipyards that submitted proposals for the project and will be competing with finalists in Lockport, La., and Bath, Maine for the contract.
As a finalist, Eastern was awarded roughly $22 million to design a prototype for the vessel, which must be submitted to the Coast Guard in the next year and a half.
“Each shipyard proposed a different vessel and this award of $22 million will be put toward us completing a detailed design and submitting a final price,” D’Isernia said. “The final award to the ultimate winner will be based on a combination of design of the vessel and cost.”
D’Isernia said the finalists were chosen based on a conceptual design and proposal submitted to the Coast Guard, which represented more than three years of work.
If awarded the project, D’Isernia said it would add between 750 and 800 employees to Eastern’s team of 1,500, and also indirectly create many jobs for the area.
“With the multiplying affect in the area, that’s easily 2,000 to 2,500 jobs,” said D’Isernia, who noted the contract is the largest the company has ever bid on.
If Eastern were awarded the contract, D’Isernia said it could also lead to facility expansion at one or both of the Panama City shipyards, depending on the company’s other workload.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said in a press release Wednesday that he was confident in Eastern’s capabilities in developing the vessels.
“I think Eastern makes a lot of sense given its facilities, capabilities of its workforce and solid track record in this industry,” said Nelson, a senior member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard.
U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, said the contract would bring a much-needed boost to the region’s economy.
“Should Eastern Shipbuilding win this contract, it will provide a tremendous boost to Northwest Florida’s economy and bring hundreds of well-paying, highly-skilled construction jobs to our community,” Southerland said.
When asked if he had any concerns about finding enough skilled workers if Eastern wins the project, D’Isernia said he was confident in the company’s capabilities.
“We’ve managed, through hiring and training, to gainfully employ 1,500 skilled people and we think we could cover this project as we’ve done in the past,” D’Isernia said. “We’re going to work like heck for a year and a half, and hope to win (the project).”