Bridgeport Boatworks in it for the long haul

On Wednesday, March 8th, 2023, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council (BRBC) held their quarterly Regional Economic Development Committee Meeting at Bridgeport Boatworks to update their members on the ongoings of the Greater Bridgeport area businesses in the organization, plus a tour of Bridgeport Boatworks, and an overview of the boatyard’s future business plans. This was a fitting site, as Boatworks was awarded the Paul S. Timpanelli Leadership in Economic Development Award at the 2021 BRBC Leadership Awards event and enabled the community to see first-hand the operations now taking place in Bridgeport Harbor.

Since 2018, Bridgeport Boatworks has been an essential part of New England’s recreational and commercial boating market, offering premiere boat maintenance, yacht hauling, and year-round storage services. Since then, it has grown to over 50,000 sq. feet of inside workspace and has helped make Bridgeport an international marine destination by bringing American-based international businesses, like North Sails and the Hornblower Group, into the Park City.

Located in a previously underutilized building that was abandoned in 2008, nature had begun to take over the site with rain coming through the ceiling and a family of raccoons taking residence. Bridgeport Boatworks has turned the shipyard site around, now housing New England’s newest and largest travel lift (with a 700-ton hauling capacity,) instead of nocturnal mammals.

The next step for Bridgeport Boatworks was to add a new branch to the company which will work in the burgeoning market of offshore wind and renewable energy. The current facility will be expanding along the shoreline to include an Offshore Wind Hub to service the first commercial-scale offshore wind energy project in the U.S., to be located 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. With the recognition of the need, the project was awarded a $10,530,000. grant by the Federal DOT Port Infrastructure Improvement Grant Program in October 2022.

Boatworks has committed to contribute a 40% match of $7m for a total project costing $17.5m   for waterfront improvements on Bridgeport Harbor which will include dredging, construction of a new bulkhead, and on land improvements to hold the cranes needed to load the offshore wind maintenance vessels. These new facilities will create dozens of permanent full-time jobs in addition to the construction jobs. These site improvements and facilities additions will allow Bridgeport Boatworks to provide necessary services to the offshore wind industries in the Northeast Atlantic, as well as serving other marine industries. Since notice of the receipt of the grant award, Boatworks leadership has assembled an expert team of consultants and engineers to meet with government officials to begin refining project details, start the Federal and State permitting processes, and establishing a realistic construction schedule. Federal and State permitting is currently estimated to take 12-18 months.

Bridgeport Boatworks isn’t alone in this revitalization of Bridgeport’s waterfront area and the overall growth of the East End neighborhood. As the boatyard for Bridgeport Harbor Marina, Boatworks is an essential part of Steelpointe Harbor and making this area the maritime destination it was always meant to be.

With the upcoming addition of 400+ apartments on Steelpointe across the Harbor, this will begin the 3rd leg of the City and Bridgeport Landing Developments’ ‘Live, Work, Play’ strategy for Bridgeport Harbor adding the ‘Live’ aspect as Boatworks has always been focused on creating jobs and training the local community to support the harbors transition into a marine hub.

Boatworks currently employs 35+ workers, many of whom live in Bridgeport, and with the addition of Hornblower Group, 50+ jobs were added for the maintenance of their line of ferries. Many Hornblower engineers were already based around Bridgeport and since the move to Boatworks, they now have a shorter commute and can spend more time supporting the local communities they live in and spend more time with their families.

In 2022, Bridgeport Boatworks and Hornblower Group teamed up to provide scholarships to Port & Chester’s welding program in support of growing the community into a maritime workforce. The scholarships, totaling $15,000.00 and valued at $2,500.00 per student, are dedicated to local Bridgeport residents and will continue to provide the necessary training to establish the Bridgeport waterfront as a maritime industry leader and job center for the local community.