The next wave of ship repairs at a riverfront yard next to the Hart Bridge will feature much bigger vessels lifted out of the water for work when Fincantieri Marine Repair puts its $30 million stamp on Jacksonville.
The company, which is part of the global Fincantieri Group that employs 19,000 people worldwide, plans to ramp up employment to 300 jobs in Jacksonville by 2028 on the site that used to be called North Florida Shipyards.
The linchpin of the $30 million investment planned by Fincantieri Marine Repair will be a 500-foot drydock arriving next year that can lift a 13,000-ton vessel out of the water compared to the 2,700-ton capacity in place now at the site.
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“The biggest change is we’re going to have a brand-new facility almost when it comes to the drydock capabilities,” CEO Ryan Smith as he stood near the St. Johns River shoreline where the drydock will go. “It will be a magnitude difference of change.”
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Rep. Clay Yarborough and Jacksonville City Council members Aaron Bowman and Reggie Gaffney were among the officials who joined the company Friday for a ceremonial groundbreaking event.
Fincantieri has been operating at the site since January after it took over the lease of 31 acres on Commodore Point that’s been used for decades to do ship repairs.
Fincantieri gained a $1.5 million tax incentive that will be paid out as it moves toward creating 300 new jobs by 2028 and might get another $1.5 million in property tax rebates based on increased tax value from its investment.
Fincantieri Marine Systems North America is a U.S. Department of Defense contractor, so Jacksonville’s ties to the Navy attracted Fincantieri’s interest in the site. The company has said its focus will be on commercial ships and the repair and maintenance of the Navy’s littoral combat ships homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
The Navy has been building new littoral ships even as it plans to decommission existing littoral ships whose ages range from three to eight years, bringing scrutiny in Congress about the Navy’s strategy and uncertainty about what the mix of ships will be at Mayport.
Smith said “change is constant” in the ship repair business and Fincantieri stands ready to work on whatever Navy ships are in Mayport.
“I’m not a strategist from the Navy. I’m a marine repair guy,” he said. “We’re going to continue to fix and repair any vessel that comes down here, and we’re coming here with a concentration on commercial vessels and a capability of fixing Navy vessels.”
Rutherford said he and other members of the Florida delegation have been challenging the Navy’s push to decommission existing littoral combat ships. He said the savings the Navy expects from decommissioning them adds up to far less than the cost of building them, and they still are relatively new ships.
“They are literally, I think, throwing away a dime to save a nickel, and it makes no sense to me,” Rutherford said.
He said the Navy could shift the mission of the littoral ships away from anti-submarine warfare by using them instead for surface activities in waters off South America and Central America.
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The two tax incentives for the renewal of the Commodore Point site are based on performance measures.
Fincantieri can receive $5,000 for each new job created with a maximum payout of $1.5 million for 300 jobs. The state will pay $4,000 of the incentive for each new job and the city will pay $1,000.
The second incentive will be based on how much the company’s investment boosts taxable property value above the current baseline. The company would be able to receive up to $1.5 million in rebates of its city property taxes over a 10-year period based on terms approved in April by the Downtown Investment Authority.