With the U.S. Navy’s pivot toward Asia, maritime businesses in the South Bay are hiring new workers and reporting big increases in revenue.
South Bay business and community leaders heard Thursday from a panel of maritime industry leaders at at an event in National City sponsored by the South County Economic Development Council.
BAE Systems, one of largest defense contractors worldwide with 2,000 employees in San Diego, is investing $100 million in a new dry dock and expects to hire another 500 workers.
Bob Koerber, vice president and general manager of the San Diego operation, said the investment is necessary because the Navy plans to base 19 more ships here by 2020.
“We’re positioning ourselves to support the fleet,” he said. “It’s key that we build today so that the ships stay here for their maintenance.”
YYK Enterprises, which repairs and paints vessels, has been growing rapidly and did over $20 million in buisness last year. Operating Partner Steve Johnston said his small company has grown to 210 employees and now has multi-million-dollar contracts to service the Navy’s growing class of littoral combat ships.
“We are hiring. I think everyone on this panel is hiring,” said Johnston. “I want you guys to share my excitement because it’s such a great opportunity.”
PASHA Automotive will handle shipments of over 5.5 million vehicles this year. Operations were moved to San Diego 25 years ago as container shipments began to dominate at the port of Los Angeles.
Stan Gabara, executive vice president, noted that San Diego is further east than Reno, NV, so it’s closer to auto plants in the Midwest and South, as well as to Mexico, where auto manufacturing is growing rapidly.
“San Diego is a strategic location for the Pacific Rim” for car shipments, he said. “To find another San Diego and replicate it from a maritime standpoint is effectively impossible.”
Marine Group Boat Works has two facilities, one in Chula Vista and the other in National City. The family-owned business, which has 200 employees, builds small boats for the Navy and repairs commercial ships and yachts — including “mega yachts” owned by celebrities.
“We do everything BAE does, we just do it on a smaller scale,” said Todd Roberts, president of the company.
Orca Maritime in Imperial Beach provides underwater services for the Navy and commercial customers, using remotely-operated vehicles. Work includes mine detection, port and harbor security, undersea mapping and environmental monitoring.
Kurt Nelson, co-owner and principal officer of the company, noted that a wide variety of dangers lurk below the surface. “When it’s underwater, it’s out of sight and out of mind,” he said.
All of the panelists said one of the biggest challenges is getting qualified workers, and urged Southwestern College and other schools to develop training programs in welding and other technical skills.
>> Subscribe to Times of San Diego’s free daily email newsletter! Click hereFollow Us: