MARINETTE - Governor Scott Walker says the Maritime Center of Excellence could set the tone for future maritime industry growth throughout the area.
"You have shipbuilders or ship building-related industries all around the Bay," said Walker at an event in De Pere Tuesday. "And so, that's a large-scale, regional interest in making sure we have enough highly skilled workers in that area. So for all those reasons, it's critically important."
Governor Walker wants to build the facility in Marinette and has set aside millions of dollars in his proposed budget for it.
The proposed two story, 24,000 square foot building would house industry suppliers and act as a training facility and business incubator.
As part of his budget proposal, the governor recommends giving the Marinette County Association for Business and Industry – or MCABI – $5 million in grants.
The association has another $6.6 million in local, state, federal and private matching funds.
"This is going to be one more step towards supplying and supporting the maritime industry in Northeast Wisconsin," said Ann Hartnell, Executive Director of the MCABI.
Hartnell says the facility would be a partnership between the region's shipbuilding industries and educational institutions like Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
But why build a new facility?
The North Coast Marine Manufacturing Training Center opened in Marinette last year.
The joint venture of the seven shipbuilders, including Marinette Marine Corporation and NWTC provides employee and student training.
"One thing the [proposed] maritime cluster gives is a feasibility of success in that type of a thing that sometimes was lacking in the past, and funding for it that was lacking in the past," explained Hartnell.
"I think (the Maritime Center of Excellence) just builds off it," said Walker.
The governor says the proposed center will help the region compete against other shipbuilders across the country like Austal USA, Marinette Marine's main competitor for naval contracts.
"We want to make sure we don't lose our ability – not just to keep those jobs – but as more jobs become apparent, we want to make sure we're competitive with any other place, any other location that would make a bid," said Walker.
The governor says he's optimistic the recommendation will be in the final budget. Hartnell says the facility could be up and running by 2014.
FOX 11 reached out to Marinette Marine. Company leaders were unavailable for comment.
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