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Joint study finds shipyard closure will devastate New Orleans economy

Loyola press release - November 29, 2011

A joint study conducted by researchers at Loyola University New Orleans and the University of New Orleans finds that the anticipated closure of the Avondale Shipyard will be devastating for laid-off workers and the economy of greater New Orleans. According to the study, Avondale contributes approximately $2 billion annually to the state's economy and has been a fixture in the region for more than 70 years, providing thousands of area citizens with well-paying jobs.

Researchers concluded that while it is unlikely that Avondale will continue as a shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy, the shipyard can remain viable as a world-class manufacturer of seagoing vessels if it pursues viable alternatives.

The study, “Avondale: The Uncertain Future of a Great American Shipyard,” was co-authored by Ted Quant, Loyola University’s Twomey Center For Peace Through Justice; Petrice Sams-Abiodun, Lindy Boggs National Center for Community Literacy at Loyola University; Vern Baxter, UNO professor of sociology; and Steve Striffler, UNO professor of anthropology.

“Examining the past, present and future of Avondale was an eye opening experience,” Quant said. “That shipyard not only created jobs, it fostered a community and single-handedly was responsible for creating the middle class in that part of New Orleans. We need to do everything possible to keep Avondale open.”

Highlights of the study include:

The Bad News: If Avondale closes, it will be devastating for laid-off workers and the economy of Greater New Orleans.

* Layoffs at Avondale have already occurred in significant numbers. Worse yet, although Huntington Ingalls has signaled a willingness to keep Avondale open, the company is moving forward with the shipyard’s closing and plans to increase layoffs in 2012. The financial and emotional stresses placed on those who have already been laid off are an ominous sign of things to come.

* If Huntington Ingalls continues to close the plant on schedule and the pace of layoffs quickens, the impact will be felt region-wide in 2012 as workers can no longer make house payments, purchase cars, send children to college or support local businesses.

* Finding a comparable job will be extremely difficult for laid-off Avondale workers, especially if thousands flood into a weak labor market at the same time. Although Avondale workers tend to be highly trained, the specialized nature of many of the jobs means that it will be very difficult for workers to find jobs at even half their current salary.

The Good News: Avondale can remain viable as a world-class manufacturer of seagoing vessels.

* Although reduced demand makes it unlikely that Avondale will continue as a shipbuilder for the U.S. Navy, viable alternatives exist and should be pursued.

* The nearly $300 million in taxpayer money that Huntington Ingalls had hoped to collect from the federal government for shutting down the shipyard is now available to finance its future. Similarly, Governor Bobby Jindal announced a $214 million incentive package to support any joint venture involving Huntington Ingalls at the site.

* The fact that we are now talking about Avondale’s future, and not its closing, represents a major victory for the workers and Louisiana as a whole.

To read the entire study, visit: http://uno.academia.edu/SteveStriffler/Papers/1179886/Avondale_The_Uncertain_Future_of_a_Great_American_Shipyard.

For more information, contact Matt Lambert in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5448 or mlambert@loyno.edu.

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