Fincantieri plans more than $30 million investment

by: Karen Brune Mathis Editor

Marine Systems North America posted signs at the Commodores Point property Downtown where it will take over the site previously leased by North Florida Shipyards at 2060 E. Adams  St. along the north bank of the St. Johns River.

“Fincantieri Marine Repair” signs hang on fences at the property, where North Florida Shipyards says it has been operating in ship repair and conversion since 1977. 

“The property has been operating as a shipyard for over 30 years. The facility will continue operating as a shipyard with future upgrades to enhance the customer experience and capabilities,” said Megan Michal Ehlers, business development and sales coordinator with Fincantieri Marine Systems N.A.

She said Fincantieri Marine Repair will be the operator of the shipyard facility, which is between the Mathews and Hart bridges.

“We plan on investing over $30 million in improvements and modernization,” she said.

William Colledge, vice president of operations at Commodores Point Properties, said Jan. 24 that Fincantieri leased about 30 acres to operate a new shipyard and repair facility. The land includes property previously leased by North Florida Shipyards, he said.

“While NFSY will no longer be a tenant at Commodores Point Properties, there has been and continues to be an amicable transition between all involved parties,” Colledge said by email.

“As part of their employment growth, Fincantieri will offer employment opportunities to all qualified North Florida Shipyards employees that wish to continue work in the ship repair industry in downtown Jacksonville,” he said.

North Florida Shipyards’ LinkedIn’s page says its facilities in Downtown Jacksonville and at Mayport Naval Station provide “commercial and government clients with cost-effective vessel conversion, dry-docking and repair services.”

Fincantieri said it is not taking over the Mayport facility. North Florida Shipyards has not responded to a request for comment. 

Italy-based Fincantieri Group’s U.S. operation is headquartered in Chesapeake, Virginia. It says on its website that it has four service centers close to naval bases in San Diego, Mayport, Bahrain and Japan. 

Fincantieri Marine Repair intends “to provide top level vessel repair service to all our customers, through safe working processes, having a focus and care for the natural environment around us, being a trusted partner in the maritime industry, and by earning the respect of our community and customers,” Ehlers said.

Fincantieri is bringing more than 300 jobs to Downtown Jacksonville at the $39 million marine repair operation at Commodores Point, Director of Communications Eric Dent said Jan. 13.

Colledge said Commodores Point Properties and Fincantieri will make a joint investment in the waterfront infrastructure. 

“Fincantieri will bring a world class Navy certified dry dock to the property to support ship maintenance of the Mayport fleet as well as large commercial work,” he said.

“Ultimately this effort will bring hundreds of new jobs to downtown Jacksonville and further support Jacksonville’s important status as a Navy town.”

City Council approved incentives for Fincantieri, under the code name Project Academy, in May 2020 to create up to 300 jobs by Dec. 31, 2024. 

Council adopted a resolution to execute a development agreement for a Qualified Target Industry grant of $1.5 million, or $5,000 a job, with $300,000 from the city and the remainder from the state.

The project summary emphasized because the state was sunsetting QTI, the legislation needed to be submitted in time.

It said legislation would be filed with the Downtown Investment Authority for a Recapture Enhanced Value Grant after the exact site configuration is determined. 

The city said Jan. 18 the QTI remains in place and DIA has been in contact regarding a possible REV grant.

The jobs would pay an average annual wage of $59,146 with benefits valued at 35% of that.

An economic development agreement said Academy wanted to buy or lease a site within Census tract 174. As part of the DIA overlay, that places it south of the Mathews Bridge. Fincantieri’s site is in that area.

That Census tract is bounded by a line two blocks west of the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and along Palmetto Street, north to Eighth Street in Talleyrand and the St. Johns River to the south and east. 

Fincantieri said it also has been approved for a Capital Investment Tax Credit with the state. The credit is used to attract and grow capital-intensive industries in Florida.

The agreement states the company plans a $40 million capital investment that includes building renovations and equipment purchases.

Dent said there will be additional work to prepare the shipyard area for the repair and maintenance work Fincantieri will do, notably a Navy-approved dry dock, and several million dollars of improvements to marine infrastructure.

He said Fincantieri has begun hiring.

Fincantieri Group serves commercial and government customers in the U.S., including the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard and Military Sealift Command in Virginia, Florida, Japan and Bahrain.