Fred Wahl Marine Construction, the largest private employer in Reedsport, received a $3.4 million ConnectOregon grant to build a nine-story shipbuilding facility which will facilitate company plans to expand its workforce by 50 percent.
The new facility on Bolon Island, located between Reedsport and Gardiner, will allow Fred Wahl Marine Construction to increase its workload and move shipbuilding and repair work out of the rain when necessary. The firm expects its current staff of roughly 90 employees to increase by another 40 when the building is completed.
“We’re pretty excited about it, to tell you the truth,” says Project Manager Jim Zimmer. “The idea is that we would be able to pick the boats out of the water, drive them into this building, close the doors and it wouldn’t matter what the weather is doing. We can sandblast, paint, work on it in a nice environment.”
Zimmer says the company committed $5.3 million to the $8.7 million facility, a 61 percent match of the ConnectOregon grant funding (the program requires a 30 percent match). Scheduled for completion in 2018, the expansion is designed to decrease the cost to boat owners while increasing operational efficiency. Fishing vessel owners want to return to the water more quickly, especially given the shorter season and weather-related challenges.
Reedsport City Manager Jonathan Wright notes that the economic effect of adding 40 new family-wage jobs in Reedsport was like adding hundreds of jobs in the Portland-metro area.
“From a city manager perspective, that’s all you can ever hope for,” Wright says. “Anytime we can build jobs back, especially ones like Fred Wahl Marine’s (jobs) which are family-wage jobs with benefits, that’s a huge deal.”