NASSCO in the spotlight in Bremerton
October 03, 2014, BREMERTON
— There’s a new contractor in town, but it doesn’t want to be an outsider.
Virgina-based General Dynamics NASSCO-Earl Industries underbid Seattle shipyard Vigor, which held the contract since 1999, and was awarded the next five years’ of non-nuclear maintenance, repair and alterations of aircraft carriers homeported in and visiting Bremerton and Everett. The company will take a leadership role, but intends to hire former subcontractors and Vigor employees, and become part of the community.
“We’re going to try to find the best and brightest from Vigor and have them join our team,” said Jeff Brooks, General Dynamics’ senior general manager, who visited Bremerton this week. “We can learn a lot from these guys.”
He already snagged one — project manager Randy Colson, who the last couple of years managed carrier upkeep at Naval Station Everett for Vigor. The USS Nimitz, which is assigned to Everett, will be General Dynamics’ first big job here. It’ll be arriving at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in January for 16 months of maintenance. General Dynamics’ share of the work is worth $94 million. The Bremerton shipyard handles the nuclear tasks.
Colson is a longtime Seabeck guy, having retired from the shipyard after 35 years before moving to Vigor.
He’s not the only one familiar with the Nimitz and the area. It was the first ship of program manager Kevin Terry, a retired Navy captain, when the carrier was home-ported in Bremerton. He also was a member of the first crew to serve aboard the USS John C. Stennis, now based in Bremerton.
The three discussed their plans Wednesday and showed off their new digs in the old Dimension4 building at Pacific Avenue and Fifth Street. The company is renovating the second floor to accommodate 47 managers, who’ll split time between the office and the waterfront. A dozen are here or en route. Total employment will reach about 200.
Though the Navy awarded the contract in March, General Dynamics got off to a late start after Vigor protested. That cut two or three months of planning time from what generally takes 15 to 17 months.
“It compressed planning milestones, which is challenging but not insurmountable,” Brooks said.
And it’s not like they haven’t done this before. General Dynamics has been working on carriers in Norfolk for 10 years.
“It was one of those business ventures we thought about for a long time,” said Brooks, a retired rear admiral. “This is a logical business expansion to come out here, take a leadership role and mobilize the local industrial base.”
The Navy a couple of months ago switched the work from dry dock to pierside. General Dynamics’ tasks will include sewage piping, life rafts and structural work all around the ship. It already installed some nonskid surface during the summer.
“The beauty of this is, even though there’s a winner and loser, we won the contract but we’re talking to Vigor leadership right now,” Brooks said. “It takes the total industrial base to execute things. We’re going to build the best subcontractor team base and when the Navy calls and asks if we can do A, B or C, we’re going to answer, ‘Yes.’ And we fully expect Vigor to be part of that team.
“In this business, you’re successful by being responsive and doing quality work. That’s what we’re known for on the East Coast and what we want to be known for in Bremerton.”
Employees who are already here say they have felt welcome.
“One of the most encouraging things is we feel like we’ve been embraced by the local community,” Brooks said. “We weren’t treated as outsiders. I think they’re encouraged by having a company like General Dynamics come here.”
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