Quonset's Electric Boat continues to inspire the confidence of federal officials, translating into jobs for Rhode Islanders and an increasingly positive impact on the state and local economy, according to EB President John Casey.
The nuclear submarine builder intends to add 250 jobs in 2012 and up to 500 new positions — paying an average of $50,000 to $75,000 a year — within the next two years. Casey said the growth is thanks in part to a new 146,000 square-foot facility unveiled Tuesday. The building will be used in the construction of deck modules to house command and combat control computers aboard the U.S. Navy's Virigina class nuclear submarines.
"It's going to be a major increase in Electric Boat's modular manufacturing and outfitting capacity," Casey said of the new facility. "It'll enable us to attain important efficiency improvements and cost reduction objectives. We can build the most capable subs in the most cost-effective way."
The upgrade helped Electric Boat secure new contracts with the Navy, increasing production to two Virginia class submarines a year – the first time production has been so high in 20 years, Casey said. The company is contracted to build nine more Virginia class subs beginning in 2014 in addition to the two currently under construction Casey told attendees of the company's annual legislative breakfast Tuesday. Additionally, EB has plans to replace 14 Ohio class subs beginning in 2019, and maintain and modernize existing ships in the U.S. fleet, keeping the work flowing in well into the next decade, he said.
Before an audience that included Gov. Lincoln Chafee and the state's entire Congressional delegation, Casey lauded the work done at Electric Boat, highlighting the company's impact not just on the local economy but on the nation's safety and security, terming the subs built in Quonset and Groton, CT as "strategic deterrence."
"The number of casualties in wartime have dropped dramatically due to strategic deterrence," Casey said, noting Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta expressed his support for increasing the U.S. fleet when he toured the Quonset facility late last year. "You don't want to put quality of life in jeopardy. You never want to show weakness."
Sen. Jack Reed echoed Casey's message that the new facility — and the work done at Electric Boat in general — makes a critical impact both locally and nationally.
"We have, over the last several years, seen difficult economic circumstances in the state of Rhode Island, but today is a day to celebrate, not only the completion of this facility, but also the fact that it is a prelude to hiring 250 more personnel here at Electric Boat," Reed said. "A robust submarine fleet is vital to our national security. It is one of the most important components of our strategic strength. The stealth, the ability to move, the ability to project power is one of the key assets of the submarine. What you do here will influence the safety and security of the world for generations to come."
The new $50-million facility, dubbed Bay 4, features 146,000 square feet of work space, two freight elevators, two overhead cranes with 120 tons of lift capability, and two cranes with 30 tons of lift capability. It will house all manner of workers for the company, including welders, pipefitters, electricians and shiplifters.
Casey said he is hopeful and confident the federal budget, which has not yet been finalized, will include plenty of funding to maintain EB's goal of two submarines a year. But even if not, Electric Boat has branched out, designing power plants and wind turbines and researching experimental equipment such as a submarine without a propeller and another that shoots air in its path, reducing water resistance and increasing efficiency. Casey noted the company, which currently employs 2,300 people, has 800 active applications in-hand and plans to begin hiring soon.
"The most important part of EB is our people," Casey said. "The jobs we create is the most important thing we can do for the local and state economy."