Groton shipyard Electric Boat is looking to hire more than a thousand people this year. But the submarine maker is warning that the lack of a federal budget could eventually affect its outlook.
As EB ramps up production of the Virginia Class of subs, it is also taking on the design and eventual building of a whole new class, the Columbia.
That means it’s hiring at a rate not seen in years. In fact, last November, the yard’s workforce touched 16,000 between its Groton base and a satellite yard in Quonset Point, RI.
Jeffrey Geiger, EB’s president, said Monday that’s a 25-year high. “It was a nice milestone to hit, but what it’s really reflective of is the level of activity in the shipyard - that’s what’s the most gratifying thing,” he said after the company’s annual Legislative Breakfast - a meeting of business people and lawmakers from Southeastern Connecticut.
Geiger told them that EB will look for a further 1,200 workers in 2018.
But in speaking with reporters, he did caution that Congress needs to pass a full budget instead of relying on continuing resolutions, the crisis that’s lead to the recent government shutdown.
Geiger said EB’s multi-year contracts with the government remain stable during a CR, but “where it does impact is where those programs are ramping up in volume, or a new program is starting, he said. “That can be sustained, and has been sustained for three months and it can be dealt with like that. You get into a six months plus kind of CR - things start to really be impacted.”
Geiger warned that the ramp-up in the workforce will not be a completely smooth trajectory. Unless maintenance work comes in on schedule, the yard may have to lay off waterfront workers, like welders and sheet metal workers, sometime next year. He’d rather avoid that kind of volatility; his biggest challenge is maintaining the skills base that will support the long-term future of the yard.