Vigor, a Portland-based shipbuilder with operations in Oregon and Washington, will use its new facility in Vancouver to build a new generation of U.S. Army landing craft called the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) or MSV (L ). Courtesy of Vigor

You can thank one of Vigor’s employees in Vancouver for bringing massive expansion and a billion dollar manufacturing contract to the city.

The company, a Portland-based shipbuilder with operations in Oregon and Washington, announced in early February its intention to purchase the former Christensen Yachts site in the Columbia Business Park. Vigor plans to use the new location to build a new generation of US Army landing craft called the Maneuver Support Vessel (Light) or MSV (L), under a billion dollar government contract. The site, which was brought to the company’s attention by a local employee, will be part of a restructuring that will create around 200 jobs in Vancouver in the near term and 200 more by 2022 or 2023, Jill Mackie said. , senior vice-president of the public service business.

“We were looking for a site to build the MSV (L), and originally thought we could do it in Seattle or Portland at our Swan Island site,” Mackie said. “But we didn’t have enough room at either site to follow the work on the new contract. We weren’t really looking in Vancouver, but someone drew our attention to the building.

It turns out that someone was simply “a local Vigor employee who knew the building” rather than an economic development group. Although after learning about the opportunity, the company contacted the city of Vancouver and other economic development agencies, she said.

The company has 2,300 employees at its seven sites in Oregon, Washington and Alaska, including a few in the city of Vancouver. As part of the restructuring of the new space, approximately 70 workers from Vigor Kvichak in Ballard will have the opportunity to relocate to Vancouver, and the Vigor Kvichak Ballard factory will close. In addition, around 60 workers at the company’s Clackamas plant who focus on aluminum vessels will have the opportunity to relocate – which the company anticipates the most. The new Vancouver facility will focus on building aluminum ships, while other facilities will continue to focus on steel, Mackie said.

“We didn’t originally plan to put all the aluminum work together, but once we saw the capacity of the site, we saw that we could do a lot more than the MSV (L)”, Mackie said. “We knew we could bring many great projects together in one space in Vancouver. “

With the Vancouver site purchased, which is slated for early summer, Vigor plans to move all of its aluminum work to the city, which is expected to be done within the next year. The company plans to spend approximately $ 7 million on equipment and building improvements over the next few years.

The company plans to start operations in Vancouver with around 130 employees, reaching 250 employees by around 2020 and another 150-200 as production of the MSV (L) increases in 2022 or 2023.

Beyond the MSV (L), Vigor also builds Aluminum Combatant Craft Medium (CCM) vehicles for the US Navy and its allies and the Response Boat-Medium (RB-M) for the US Coast Guard and the market. of export. The company is also making fast ferries, an interceptor and commercial aluminum work boats, all of which will be made in Vancouver.

“Vigor’s decision to retain and develop jobs in Washington state is a testament to the high quality of life and workforce we have here,” Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. Press. “Our team worked closely with Vigor to find a competitive solution to keep these jobs in Washington and I am happy to see the continued success of one of our great corporate citizens contributing to our economy by creating decent paying jobs. in Vancouver. “

Vigor’s MSV (L) work is still in its early stages. The company must first produce a prototype, which the military will test before requesting modifications or improvements. After that, the company will manufacture four units as part of the low rate production process, these units also being tested by the military. Once these processes are completed, possibly by 2022, full production of the remaining 32 units will begin, Mackie said.

Vigor rendering
This render shows what Vigor’s new all-aluminum manufacturing facility in Vancouver will look like when completed with equipment upgrades and more. Courtesy of Vigor

“In Vancouver, we’ll go through an acceleration process,” Mackie said. “In October 2019, we expect approximately 130 employees to be placed in Vancouver. By 2023, we expect to have around 400. “

Frank Foti, President and CEO of Vigor, said the restructuring will strengthen the company as a whole and make it more competitive in the future.

“The synergies we will achieve by bringing these incredible manufacturers together in one place strengthens our competitive advantage and builds on our long-term goals as an outstanding industrial company,” Foti said in a press release. “Although we have had operations in Vancouver since 1980, this move represents a substantial increase in the number of Vigor employees who will live and work here. Our Vigor team look forward to getting to know the Vancouver community better and to be a force for good through our great people and the economic activity associated with our work.

The company plans to work with local educational organizations like Clark College to build worker pipelines for the new factory. It is already working with Portland Community College for its production facilities in Oregon, but the company also wants to talk about training in Vancouver, Mackie said.

“We have strong partnerships with community colleges in Portland, Seattle, Ketchikan and we will build on the great work being done with the Swan Island Training Center (in our Swan Island Shipyard – the partnership is with the Portland Community College) as well as with our partners at the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC) to help with training, ”said Mackie. “We will be talking over the next few months with Clark College to discuss our needs and their programs. We will also discuss with our union partners and our vocational training programs.

The jobs the company hopes to fill are generally well paid and skilled. Production workers earn about $ 60,000 per year, program and production managers earn about $ 80,000 per year. Vigor will be looking for aluminum fabricators, fitters and welders, outfitters, electricians, painters, engineers and production managers, among others.

“The beauty of it all is that we are able to bring all of our aluminum expertise together in one place,” Mackie said. “We are very excited about this. It will make Vigor better and more competitive.

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