Wisconsin Offers Shipbuilder $50M In Incentives

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Gov. Jim Doyle's administration is offering $50 million in incentives to help Marinette Marine Corp.'s parent company land a U.S. Navy contract that could provide economic stability in northeastern Wisconsin.

Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri Marine Group hopes to build high-speed Navy combat ships for use in coastal waters. The contract would create more than 1,000 jobs in Marinette plus thousands of additional jobs for suppliers and vendors in the region.

"This is a project that will put Marinette Marine on the map for a long time," Doyle said. "It's like bringing a big auto plant to the state of Wisconsin."

The work would be the largest defense-industry project in Wisconsin since World War II, when submarines were built in Manitowoc, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in its Thursday editions.

"The economic impact is absolutely huge for the region," said Richard McCreary, Marinette Marine's chief executive.

The company expects to find out between July and September whether it has won the contract to build 10 littoral combat ships. The vessels represent a new class of speedy warship designed to conduct water combat just off an enemy's shore.

Marinette Marine, along with defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp., are competing for the Navy business with General Dynamics Corp. and its partner, Austal USA.

The long-term stakes are high. Eventually the Navy wants some 55 littoral ships, which cost several hundred million dollars each.

If General Dynamics wins the bid its construction will take place in Mobile, Ala., where it has already built one littoral ship.

To make Marinette more competitive, Doyle's administration is offering a string of incentives. They include about $28 million in tax credits to help cover plant and equipment investments, plus millions to help recruit and train workers.

The company would receive the state tax credits only as it makes its own plant and personnel investments, which could reach $100 million, Doyle said.

"Nobody's handing over $50 million in cash," Doyle said. "This more than pays for itself over time."

Alabama hasn't said what incentives it might offer. "And I would not tell you if I knew," Austal spokesman Bill Pfister said.

The littoral combat ship is smaller than the Navy's next-generation surface combat ship and can move through shallow waters at "sprint speed" to get troops safely out of enemy territory. The ships can travel at 58 mph, compared with the average speed of 35 mph for other combat ships.

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