An analysis of Bath Iron Works’ far-reaching impact on Maine’s economy, released Tuesday, highlighted the yard’s success in importing and training new workers, a model labor expert that marks a crucial step in combating the state’s aging workforce.
The independent analysis, conducted by the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Business and Economic Research, found that BIW supported more than $8.4 billion in economic activity in Maine between 2017 and 2021. This figure includes the shipyard’s payroll and operating expenses, as well as other local expenses for which it was indirectly responsible – including the wages of BIW’s employees and their suppliers, which were spent on health care, food and accommodation.
“BIW accurately reflects the type of industry you want in your state,” said Dana Connors, President and CEO of the Maine Chamber of Commerce. “[The report] reminds us how lucky we are.”
Senator Angus King, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the yard for both its military and economic importance.
“Bath Iron Works has long been a cornerstone of Maine communities and the backbone of the American Navy,” King wrote in a statement. “This report puts into numbers what we already know about the Maine faces and businesses we deal with every day. Bath Iron Works accounts for 17% of Maine’s manufacturing GDP, supports nearly 12,000 Maine jobs and provides $1.8 billion in economic impact (all 2021 figures). Bath Iron Works is a truly important and irreplaceable part of Maine and our state’s economy.”
According to the report, BIW directly employed over 6,600 workers in 2021, a 17% increase from 2011. This growth far outpaced increases in total national employment over the same period, which totaled 5%.
This growth is due in part to aggressive efforts to recruit workers from Maine and beyond, the report says. BIW has invested $130 million in training and recruiting skilled workers over the past decade and has hired approximately 1,000 employees per year for the past five years.
In 2021, at least 690 new hires came from abroad, a trend Connors called “crucial” for the future of Maine, which has had more deaths than births for more than a decade.
As older workers retire, Maine and its employers must find ways to both train younger workers and recruit workers from across the state line, according to Labor Department spokeswoman Jessica Picard.
“Part of the state’s 10-year economic plan is to attract 75,000 people to Maine’s talent pool, including those from outside the state,” Picard wrote in a statement. “The Mills Administration is proud to partner with Bath Iron Works as they recruit, employ and train thousands of Mainers for quality, in-demand jobs through human resources programs such as registered apprenticeships and the Maine Hire-A-Vet campaign.”
While BIW has been successful in growing its workforce in recent years, widespread housing and childcare shortages continue to pose hiring and retention challenges, President Chuck Krugh wrote in a statement. He called for public-private partnerships to tackle the problems, a refrain echoed by Bath City manager Marc Meyers.
“We’ve had a great working relationship with BIW and look forward to continuing to work together to find solutions that help them with recruitment and retention,” said Meyers, who described Bath’s new rules for additional housing units as a positive step forward. “We’d love to be able to do our part, whether that’s by trying to help with affordable housing [or] traffic problems”.
As local and state lawmakers work with nonprofit groups and employers to break down barriers for transplant workers, Sen. King and Rep. Jared Golden hope to spend the coming weeks securing the Navy contracts that allow BIW to provide her continue growth.
“This report demonstrates the importance of shipbuilding’s industrial base and the need for Congress to provide the predictability and consistency needed for the shipyard to continue to produce ships of the highest quality, train and hire skilled shipbuilders, and continue to have a major impact on the.” economy of this state,” Golden wrote in a statement. “To that end, I am proud to have received authorization for a third DDG-51 destroyer under this year’s Annual Defense Authorization Bill, in addition to a contract to build up to 15 DDGs over the next five years.”
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