KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan could see significant economic benefits — both in terms of new jobs and money spent in the community — if either the state or private companies choose the Ketchikan Shipyard for large-scale shipbuilding projects, according to a recent report.
The report, released by the Ketchikan Marine Industry Council, states that a $100 million shipbuilding project could mean 190 new jobs — paying $27.4 million in wages — and $12.4 million on additional spending for local goods and services.
Chelsea Goucher, executive director of the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, said the study was done for a purely hypothetical situation.
“(The study) just really illustrates to the community how valuable the marine industries are,” Goucher said. “That’s a huge amount of money coming into our community and local economy (for a project like that). People are going to spend money here in town, businesses can hire more employees and that would bolster those businesses.
“It’s important to look at studies like this and how, holistically, they’re good for everybody,” Goucher added.
The council also is willing to conduct economic impact studies on other aspects of the marine industry in and near Ketchikan.
“The shipyard is a sponsor and promoter of the council, but it’s one of many,” Goucher said. “We want to make sure (the council) focuses on all aspects of the marine industry, and it goes well beyond shipbuilding. We would welcome any interest in other studies.”
One project that could test the study’s projected benefits could be the construction of two Alaska class ferries for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
In December 2012, Gov. Sean Parnell voiced his belief that the two ships could be built for the $120 million that had been appropriated for the original, larger Alaska class ferries.
Doug Ward, director of shipyard development for Vigor Alaska, which owns the Ketchikan Shipyard, said that the company is coming up with final numbers for the project and has been working with the state to develop a final cost estimate.
However, he added, the potential project has not yet been finalized and the ferries may not be built in Ketchikan.
The shipyard could also be used to help replace ships in the Alaska fishing fleet, Ward said.
The fleet needs to replace 2,829 ships — out of the current 4,171 vessels— and the estimated cost could be close to $15 billion, according to information Ward provided.
If a large shipbuilding project does take place at the Ketchikan Shipyard, it would add to the growth the facility has experienced recently.
Employment at the shipyard increased by 100 — 60 to 160 — from 2003 to 2013, with the average annual salary being $62,000 in 2013. The shipyard also paid more than $120 million — including wages, charitable donations, taxes, goods and services — over the same time period, according to the study.