While state officials announced with much fanfare a deal that is supposed to create 1,000 jobs on the Coast at a new company, Topship, they've been mum about layoffs at a sister company, Gulf Ship.
I'm trying to find out just how many people Gulf Ship employs and just how many have been recently laid off. If you have been laid off recently by Gulf Ship, or know of someone who has, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gulf Ship employed about 600 workers when the oil industry was booming, but was down to 300 employees a few months back, according to Bill Hessell, executive director of the Harrison County Development Commission. Hessell said he hasn't checked Gulf Ship's employment figures lately.
Both Topship and Gulf Ship, which opened in Gulfport in 2006, are subsidiaries of Edison Chouest Offshore. ECO was founded in 1960 in the little town of Galliano, La., and is today a major player in the global transportation industry.
Gulf Ship builds supply boats for the oil industry. Topship also plans to build vessels for the oil industry. CEO Gary Chouest said specific plans for Topship manufacturing are still being finalized.
I have been trying for about three weeks to reach the corporate spokesperson for ECO, Lonnie Thibodeaux, but he has not responded to numerous messages.
Monday morning, Gulf Ship's human resources said he could not tell the Sun Herald how many people work at Gulf Ship. Instead, he referred me to Thibodeaux.
Gulf Ship gets a tax break from the county. Topship is receiving a bundle of tax incentives, breaks and government funding – $11 million from the state, $25 million of the port's federal funds for Katrina relief.
I sent a list of questions about Topship and Gulf Ship to the deal's broker, the Mississippi Development Authority, on Wednesday. Still waiting to hear back.