A naval term appropriately sums up the pace those behind a proposal to build a shipyard in Lorain and locate an affiliate supply, equipment and service depot in Lordstown want to move at — “head flank.”
“That means put the engines to the fire wall and let it rip,” said Ed Bartlett, founder, president and CEO of Bartlett Maritime Corporation, the Broadview Heights-based firm pushing for the multibillion-dollar plan. “That is the pace our project is going, at head flank. We’re going to do everything we can, without cutting corners, without breaking the rules … but to not waste any time at all. This is such an important problem, and it needs to be solved last week.”
The problem is a maintenance logjam for U.S. Navy subs that, Bartlett believes, would be loosened with his company’s proposal — a fifth public naval shipyard on the Black River in Lorain and the depot, the American Naval Depot, at the Ohio Commerce Center in Lordstown.
In Lordstown, the proposed 700,000- to 1-million-square-foot depot would be designed to accommodate growth to service the four existing shipyards in Portsmouth, N.H.; Norfolk, Va.; Pearl Harbor; and Puget Sound, Wash., and proposed yard to the west in Lorain.
“The village of Lordstown has been exceptionally accommodating and attractive to us,” Bartlett said. “We feel very comfortable there. It’s a transportation hub. It’s connected to the rails — both CSX and Norfolk Southern — and it’s well connected to the interstates.”
Bartlett led a panel discussion and news conference Wednesday from the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on his company’s proposal, which he said has attracted much attention, especially from job seekers.
“Since we’ve been public with this for the last six weeks, my inbox is full every day with people saying, ‘When can I apply for a job, when can I come work for you?’” Bartlett, a former Navy captain, said. “There is an abundance of people ready and willing to work hard. These are hard, technically demanding jobs, but the people are there ready to do it.”
A ready labor force and access to capital are the reasons Bartlett said Ohio was selected for project.
Bartlett predicts about 1,000 workers in Lordstown and about 3,000 in Lorain, but that workforce could grow if the Navy grows its submarine numbers, “so our plan is to create facilities with room to grow in both of them.”
Bartlett Maritime’s proposal would need Navy approval. The plan would include a public / private partnership through existing legislation that allows for capital financing to build the facilities, Bartlett said.
Industrial revenue bonds would be used for funding to build and equip the buildings. The Navy would lease from Bartlett Maritime and own the facilities after 30 years. Goldman Sachs has been brought on as a financial adviser.
Bartlett said the program is ready to start immediately and if the Navy green-lights phase one, which is a six-month planning and detailed preparation phase, a ceremonial groundbreaking would be ready for both sites in this year.
Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill also was part of the panel. He said Lordstown is eager to be part of the project.
“If you don’t look forward and try to find something tangible for your community, you’re going to wither on the vine and die,” Hill said.