Today, Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the purchase of the former Avondale Shipyards site in Jefferson Parish by Avondale Marine LLC, a new joint venture with plans to redevelop the New Orleans-area property as a global logistics hub. Joining Gov. Edwards in an announcement ceremony on the site were executives of the companies forming the joint venture – President and CEO Adam Anderson of T. Parker Host and CEO Roberto Perez of Hilco Redevelopment Partners – and key elected officials, including Louisiana Senate President John Alario and Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni.
A day earlier, Avondale Marine – a joint venture of Virginia-based T. Parker Host and Illinois-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners – acquired the 254-acre property from Huntington Ingalls Industries. Avondale Marine will redevelop the site’s crane, dock and terminal assets along nearly 8,000 feet of Mississippi River frontage, while connecting global waterborne commerce with manufacturing, fabrication and distribution facilities onshore. Capturing connections to six Class I rail carriers in the New Orleans area, the new owners envision creating a world-scale logistics hub at the former shipyard.
“For more than 75 years, tens of thousands of workers from Jefferson Parish, New Orleans and surrounding parishes built vessels at Avondale that preserved our freedom in times of war and invigorated our economy in times of peace,” Gov. Edwards said. “We know that golden age of shipbuilding will not return to Avondale. But after many months of discussion, we have secured a visionary private-sector partner to create a new path for growth at Avondale. This purchase represents a great opportunity to bring new investment, jobs and prosperity back to Avondale, with a sharp focus on attracting logistics and manufacturing leaders in the global economy.”
In business for nearly a century, T. Parker Host operates more than 30 maritime agency, terminal, and stevedoring sites, and the company has collaborated with Hilco Redevelopment Partners on prior projects. Following Hilco’s 2012 purchase of the former Bethlehem Steel mill at Sparrows Point in Baltimore, Hilco Redevelopment Partners and its joint venture team brought T. Parker Host in as the strategic marine operator for the Maryland site now known as Tradepoint Atlantic. In the past six years, Tradepoint Atlantic has generated thousands of new direct and indirect jobs after transformation of the site into an East Coast multimodal port. Similarly, T. Parker Host and Hilco Redevelopment Partners view the Avondale Marine site as a future economic engine for Jefferson Parish and the surrounding region. Capital investment and job projections will be disclosed as development plans for the site coalesce.
“For generations, Avondale Shipyards has been a source of pride that generated jobs and economic development for the community,” said Anderson, the T. Parker Host president and CEO. “Our goal is to place Avondale into the supply chain as a multimodal, global logistics hub that not only moves goods but actually adds value on-site. We are grateful for the steadfast support and leadership of the governor, parish president and council, as well as our partners in the project, including the Port of New Orleans, the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad, JEDCO, GNO Inc., the Jefferson Business Council and the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce.”
Known for repurposing large-scale industrial properties across North America, Hilco Redevelopment Partners identified Avondale as a potential redevelopment site several years ago and began working to assemble an acquisition strategy. Financial terms of Wednesday’s sale were not disclosed.
“We’re thrilled to leverage our extensive experience in redeveloping and transforming facilities that are at the end of their current useful life into modern, productive businesses for the future,” said Perez, the Hilco Redevelopment Partners CEO. “We look forward to supporting our managing partners at T. Parker Host in the Avondale Marine project as we build this important logistics hub in greater New Orleans.”
Once Louisiana’s largest private employer, the shipyard still employed 7,500 people at the beginning of the 1980s prior to the U.S. government ending its subsidy of commercial shipbuilding. Avondale turned to chiefly defense-related shipbuilding, a business that also began dwindling in the 1990s as the U.S. Navy reduced its fleet size following the end of the Cold War. Northrop Grumman, which acquiredAvondale through a 2000 purchase of Litton Industries, spun off its shipbuilding business as Huntington Ingalls Industries in 2011 after announcing plans to consolidate its shipbuilding business on the Gulf Coast. That led to the closure of Avondale Shipyards in 2014.
However, even after the sale, HII will continue to operate an Avondale engineering office that employs 350 people at the University of New Orleans Maritime Technology Center of Excellence. That building will remain a state asset and was not included in the property conveyed to Avondale Marine LLC. HII’s engineering work at Avondale supports manufacturing at the company’s Ingalls Shipbuilding operations in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
“We are very proud of our legacy at Avondale and the many contributions that generations of its shipbuilders made to our national security,” said President Brian Cuccias of Ingalls Shipbuilding. “Ingalls will continue to maintain a presence in Louisiana, not only at the UNO center but also through the many Louisiana residents who commute to Pascagoula each day to help us build the ships we produce for our nation’s defense. We are pleased that Avondale Marine plans to put the facility back into commerce, and look forward to its success.”
State, parish, local and port officials are poised to assist Avondale Marine in the recruitment of new economic activity at the site.
“This is one of the largest economic development announcements in Jefferson Parish history,” said Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni. “Our community has experienced tremendous growth on both the east and west banks of Jefferson Parish in recent years. The introduction of jobs and investment into this area will have a far-reaching impact on the west bank and across the region, further invigorating our growing economy. We look forward to a long partnership with Avondale Marine and thank them for their investment in our community.”
“Today’s announcement marks a landmark moment in the eventual repurposing of one of the state’s great assets. It has been an honor and a privilege for our team and board of commissioners to have played a critical role in finalizing this acquisition,” said JEDCO President and CEO Jerry Bologna. “For the last 17 months, the JEDCO team has worked tirelessly with Avondale Marine, Jefferson Parish and across multiple jurisdictions to bring this deal to fruition and begin the process of reinvigorating this valuable real estate. This effort is a testament to the collaboration, vision, and focus of many people. We believe this is just the first step in what will become a catalytic transformation of the Avondale Shipyard site. JEDCO will be there every step of the way to ensure the maximization of job creation and investment for our residents.”
With 31 percent of all waterborne commerce in the U.S. passing through the lower Mississippi River, Louisiana’s water transportation and support services sector contributes to 83,300 jobs in the state, with total payroll income of $5.5 billion and annual economic output of $20.9 billion, according to a February 2018 study commissioned by the Offshore Marine Service Association and the Louisiana Association of Waterway Operators and Shipyards. The redevelopment of the Avondale Shipyards site will contribute to that sector while adding value through new manufacturing, fabrication and distribution operations.
“For over eight years, we have worked with political leaders, economic development partners and private developers to reimagine a new Avondale that would be as impactful and catalytic for our state and region as the shipyard had been for decades,” said Greater New Orleans Inc. President and CEO Michael Hecht. “Today, I am proud to have played a role in such an important win for the greater New Orleans region and Louisiana. This new venture will create thousands of good jobs and will bring value-added manufacturing to the river. I applaud the leadership of past and current elected officials for their unwavering support and commitment to the transformation of the Avondale Shipyard, and the multiple public and private partnerships that helped shepherd this announcement. GNO Inc. and all of us in the region look forward to supporting Avondale Marine.”