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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 13, 202204:20 PM EST

Fincantieri Marine to lease 30 acres Downtown for $39 million repair facility

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Previously known as “Project Academy,” the company will hire more than 300 people and work on Navy vessels.

Chesapeake, Virginia-based Fincantieri Marine Systems North America is bringing more than 300 jobs to Jacksonville as it sets up a $39 million marine repair operation at Commodores Point Downtown.

Director of Communications Eric Dent said Jan. 13 Fincantieri is leasing about 30 acres. He said Fincantieri is Project Academy, which is the code-named deal that City Council supported in 2020 with a pledge of incentives.

Fincantieri said in a Nov. 21 news release that it will expand its marine repair operations on the East Coast, a move it expected “to bring hundreds of jobs to Jacksonville, Fla.” as it provides commercial and government vessels “a much needed marine repair capacity.”

The news release, also posted by JAX Chamber, said Fincantieri will “make Commodores Point the focus of this effort, bringing business and investment to the downtown Jacksonville waterfront.”

JAXUSA.org posted about the deal Jan. 6.

“The new year is off to a great start and the outlook for the Jacksonville region is bright with the recent announcement from Fincantieri Marine Systems North America (FMSNA) made only days into 2022,” said JAXUSA, the economic development division of JAX Chamber.

“The subsidiary, part of the world’s largest shipbuilding organization, Fincantieri Group, will bring 300 new advanced manufacturing jobs and a $39 million capital investment in the region.”

The Fincantieri release provided more detail.

Fincantieri Marine Systems North America CEO Ryan Smith said that with the company’s expansion in Northeast Florida, he plans to employ more than 300 people over the next three years. The jobs include pipefitting, shipfitting, welding, electrical, outfitting, preservation, and mechanical specializations. 

“The dry dock will be U.S. Navy-certified, which will enable us to repair and maintain Navy vessels in addition to our work on commercial and Coast Guard vessels.” 

The release said that in August, Fincantieri received approval from the Navy to participate in repair and maintenance delivery orders on the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships currently homeported in nearby Mayport. 

In October, Fincantieri received approval to compete for work on the remaining Mayport surface fleet.

Fincantieri Marine Systems North America CEO Ryan Smith

Starting in early 2022, Fincantieri will open to provide services to small to medium-size commercial vessels at the Commodores Point facility. 

The release said that although the large dry dock will not be operational until 2023, Fincantieri will be available for top-side work on larger vessels pier side.

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.

Fincantieri Marine Systems North America Inc. is part of Fincantieri Group of Italy.The company 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.

City Council approved incentives for 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 $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. 

Project Academy, a manufacturing company, intends to establish a 300-job facility Downtown, according to the city economic development agreement summary.

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

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

It said Academy wanted to buy or lease a site within Census tract 174, which is south of the Mathews Bridge within the Census tract. The Fincantieri location is in that area.

That 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. 

The company was evaluating port cities in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia, according to the summary.

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