MARINETTE - Marinette Marine plans to add 200 workers in the next six months.
The U.S. Navy just issued Lockheed Martin and Marinette Marine nearly $700 million dollars to build two more LCS ships.
Despite an unclear future for the LCS program, company officials say these new workers will be needed to build the current order.
President Barack Obama's latest budget proposal calls for 32 LCS ships to be built, not the 52 the Navy planned for. That has created uncertainty among the 2,000 workers, including contracted workers, building the ships at Marinette Marine.
“I had a lot of questions in my workforce about that as well and what I try to remind them is they need to keep their heads down and go perform and that's the best thing we can do to go capture as many as those remaining ships,” said Chuck Goddard, President and CEO of Marinette Marine.
Until they hear from the Navy or Department of Defense, Marinette Marine leaders plan to focus on their current workload.
“We've got backlog to worry about and we've got production that we're concerned about,” said Joe North of Lockheed Martin.
Marinette Marine currently has four LCS ships under construction. The two new ships, along with another planned to begin construction later this year, will keep the company busy through 2018.
“It does provide that stabilization for those of you who are wondering why we're still hiring and that's why we need to get up to the 1,600 MMC employees to be able to just deal with the workload and the backlog we have now,” said Goddard.
Marinette Marine plans to hire 100 skilled workers, mostly electricians, pipe fitters, and welders. The company also plans to hire 100 entry level positions. They'll undergo training in hopes of replacing retiring workers.
“We use them for fire watches, we use them for basic cleaning and we use them for some services type of activity and we basically train them into skills and see where their aptitudes are and then move them in,” said Goddard.
While the company has planned and would prefer for those workers to keep building LCS ships, company officials say it would pursue other government work if the LCS program is cut short.
“Once they decide what direction to go, we'll be there to support it,” said North.
Goddard says the company plans to hire about 100 workers each year going forward to keep up with retirements.
The company also secured a grant to hire and train 20 local graduating high school students.
As for the President's budget, congress still needs to approve it.