Monday, March 26, 2012

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Endures Through Recession

By Larry Favinger

Staff Columnist


While the economy of Southern Maine and Southeastern New Hampshire had its ups and downs during 2011, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continued to be a huge, steady financial contributor to the local areas.

According to the Economic Impact Study released recently by the Seacoast Shipyard Association, the shipyard increased its employment, its civilian payroll, its military payroll, the purchases of more goods and services, and contracts in 2011.

The total of those activities is over $560 million.

Civilian employment at the Kittery yard has risen from 5,168 in 2010 to 5,187 last year with a corresponding increase in payroll. In 2011, workers earned $408,395,305 compared to $395, 166, 516 the year before.

Those figures break down to show $234,047,564 to 2,948 workers from Maine, $150,79,790 to 1,946 New Hampshire workers, $10,378,138 to 131 Massachusetts residents and $13,176,793 to workers from other states.

A breakdown of the number of employees in area towns and cities and the total payroll for them can be found in accompanying information boxes.

The number of civilian employees has risen each year since 1998 when there were 3,648 on the employment rolls.

The military payroll to the Navy and Coast Guard shows an increase over 2010 with $40,498,582 last year compared to $39,939,431 the previous year.

The shipyard purchased nearly $50 million in goods and services and over $63 million in contracted facility services, much of it from Maine and New Hampshire.

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the oldest of the Navy’s four remaining shipyards, is considered “the most efficient yard in the Navy”, according to Navy Capt. William McDonough, a retired shipyard commander, now a spokesman for the Seacoast Shipyard Association.

The Association is concerned about the possibility of the formation of another BRAC down the road to consider another round of facility closures across the military landscape.

McDonough said the economic study underlines that a closure of the shipyard would be “a devastating thing to the local economy, as well as the overall states of Maine and New Hampshire.”

McDonough noted the shipyard has “a good workload for the foreseeable future,” another positive situation. Following World War II the Navy had 11 shipyards but that number has since been reduced to four.

More good news for the shipyard is the recent awarding of two contracts totaling over $65 million for modernization work at the yard.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) welcomed the announcement.

“The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is an economic engine that drives the economy of southern Maine and New Hampshire," Sen. Collins a member of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Defense Appropriations Subcommittee said. “I am pleased that the Navy recognizes the critical need for these investments at the shipyard. This will help improve the safety and efficiency of the terrific workforce that keeps our Nation's nuclear submarines ready for sea every day."

Sen. Shaheen and Sen. Ayotte are also members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We have strongly advocated for the Navy to address critical infrastructure and modernization needs at the shipyard, and we’re pleased that this important work is now moving forward,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “The projects announced this month will make a significant dent in the facility modernization backlog and help improve safety and efficiency at Portsmouth, whose workers set the standard for maintaining our nation’s nuclear submarine fleet.

“We are pleased that the Navy has continued to recognize and correct the critical need for investments at Portsmouth.”