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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Study: Avondale shipyard closure "will devastate New Orleans economy"

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 2:50 PM

Researchers from the University of New Orleans and Loyola University teamed for the Avondale Research Project, tasked with looking at what impacts the closure of the Avondale shipyard would have on the area.

Obviously, the thousands of now-planned (and in-progress) layoffs would devastate the workers there. The project, in its recently released report "Avondale: The Uncertain Future of a Great American Shipyard," says it also would impact the New Orleans area economy and beyond. The report points to laid off workers unable to "make house payments, purchase cars, send children to college or support local businesses," and an uncertain job market for skilled labor would keep many of the thousands of Avondale workers without a comparable job.

Last month, Gov. Bobby Jindal announced the state would kick in $214 million in incentives should the yard remain open, though the yard owner, Huntington Ingalls Industries, still needs a "business partner" for the site.

Earlier this year, UNO researcher Steve Striffler told Gambit the research project's "hope, aside from the more scholarly aspect of it, (is) to generate or contribute to a public discussion. If you said in a year from now we’re going to close the LSU campus in Baton Rouge, we’d be talking about it every day, 24 hours a day. .... It’s not that far an exaggeration to suggest this can have that kind of an impact.”

The project then estimated the loss of the more than 4,500 thousand jobs at the shipyard could translate to a trickle-down effect throughout the community — up to 10,000 additional jobs would take a hit.

“It has historically been kind of one of those rare places where you can pretty much leave high school and get a career, starting relatively low on the ladder, but they effectively offer a college education there, the way they train people,” Striffler said. “The problem of course, not always, is it tends to be very specialized. You’re the world’s greatest painter of the exterior of a ship, but that doesn’t mean it translates into a high-paying job outside that sector. ... When they lose their jobs there are close to no alternatives for some of them. That’s definitely a concern.”

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