Economic doors opening in area

Published 1:00 am Sunday, September 4, 2011

As Vicksburg bid farewell to a number of workers at one longstanding company on Monday, another in the area promised grand plans with many jobs, and more potentially are in the wings.

A LeTourneau Technologies-built Douglas 240-C class shallow-water rig left the facility Monday, leaving in its wake much uncertainty. Joy Global of Milwaukee purchased the company for $1.1 billion. As many as 250 workers, it is hoped, will remain at the plant, but whether the company will build big rigs or ever get back to the 600 employees it once had is uncertain.

Some of those workers, though, also had good news on Monday as shipbuilder St. John Enterprise Inc. of Garyville, La., announced a $32 million upgrade to a Madison Parish shipbuilding facility. The 100,000-square-foot, 56-acre site once was home to a Northrop Grumman plant, before that company moved to the Gulf Coast.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

St. John’s plans are to hire 104 people in a year. Company CEO Ron Lewis on Monday said he asked for 100 resumes and received 169 from people living in Louisiana. The inference is that St. John not only wants to expand, but to hire locally. That could be a boon for not only former LeTourneau workers, but for others weathering a sour economy.

Mississippi’s unemployment rate for July sat at 10.4 percent, and Warren County’s was about a point higher. Louisiana’s unemployment rate for July was 7.6 percent.

Statewide, the Mississippi Legislature gave approval Friday to a plan to issue bond to lure two companies and about 1,750 jobs to the state. The Legislature approved the floating of bonds and tax incentives of about $175 million to two companies — California-based solar energy company, expected to employ 900 people in Lowndes County, and HCL CleanTech, which plans to locate its headquarters in Olive Branch and build satellite facilities in the state. The Legislature also gave the OK to epand an existing tax rebate to help Huntington Ingalls add 3,000 shipbuilding jobs on the Gulf Coast.

The state issues bonds as long-term debt in efforts to fund large projects. In this case, with the Legislature’s authorization, the state Bond Commission will meet Sept. 19 to issue bonds.

When the LeTourneau rig began its trip south en route to Sabine Pass, Texas, it took with it many jobs and left much uncertainty as to its future. But on the same day, hope arrived on both sides of the river — hope for more jobs, more growth and more prosperity.

And that is a good thing.