Tour Highlights Progress and Potential at Avondale Global Gateway
NEW ORLEANS — On Sept. 19, maritime company T. Parker Host and the Port of South Louisiana hosted a media tour of the Avondale Global Gateway facility, located on the west side of the Mississippi River just a few miles upriver from the Huey P. Long Bridge.
The event took place two days before a Sept. 21 State Bond Commission meeting, where PortSL is scheduled to seek approval to purchase Avondale from Host — a Jefferson Parish-based ship agency, stevedoring and terminal operations company — for $330 million.
After the proposed sale, Host would act as the facility’s terminal manager and stevedore.
Host purchased Avondale from shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls in 2018 for $60 million. The company said it spent more than $100 million to bring the site back into commerce as a logistics hub.
Host’s long-term plan is to continue to grow the logistics business while renting space to manufacturing tenants in three categories: food, construction materials and renewable energy.
“We have turned a derelict site into a profitable center of commerce, created hundreds of jobs, and secured tenants in our core industries,” said Adam Anderson, Host chairman, when the new sales price was announced. “In partnership with the Port of South Louisiana, we are committed to reaching Avondale’s full potential and bringing even more sustainable business to the West Bank.”
The final negotiated price for PortSL’s purchase of AGG is $115 million less than the original $445 million price tag announced in January.
That initial figure drew its fair share of criticism from industry observers, some of whom believe the 254-acre Avondale site — which was an active shipyard from 1938 through 2014 — may no longer be commercially viable.
The Jefferson Business Council and the Jefferson Parish Council, however, both support the deal.
The Sept. 19 media tour, no doubt, was designed to show how far Avondale has come – and how much potential it still has.
The event was reminiscent of Disney World’s Jungle Cruise ride without the corny jokes and animatronic animals. Instead, Host’s government affairs representative, Jeff Keever, showed off highlights of Avondale’s current operations for several media members piled into a passenger van.
The first stop was a 600,000-square-foot building dubbed “the Factory,” where components of ships were fabricated back when Avondale was an operating shipyard. Now, it’s a massive unconditioned space primarily used as a warehouse for materials in transit — such as plywood or food products — that can’t be stored outside.
The van weaved its way across railroad tracks — and past stacks of molded aluminum from Australia and piled up bags of cement from Turkey — to stop at one of the facility’s docks, where some of Host’s roughly 300 employees were busy unloading Korean steel from a three-year-old Liberian ship named the Mamma Mia. A half dozen bright yellow gantry cranes loomed overhead.
The final tour stop was at the headquarters of Gulf Wind Technology, a poster child of sorts for the type of tenants Host and PortSL are hoping to attract to the massive campus.
GWT CEO James Martin moved his operation to a renovated building on the site earlier this year. There, his team of 22 people is developing, testing and demonstrating new technologies aimed at solving engineering hurdles for the offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Mexico, where wind conditions can range from mild to hurricane level during any given year.
Martin said Avondale is a perfect location for his enterprise for several reasons.
“We believe that Avondale has a unique potential in the wind turbine industry, in that it is a high-throughput terminal combined with heavy industrial manufacturing space, enabling large component road, rail and river access for our future products,” he said. “Avondale also has a demonstrated history of attracting the high-quality industrial workforce that is needed to support wind turbine blade-related manufacturing. The energy industry is a market where cost structure is paramount, so establishing a hub for a lean company operation is a differentiator for Gulf Wind Technology.”
In March, GWT announced that Shell New Energies US has invested $10 million in the creation of the Shell Gulf Wind Technology Accelerator program, which is designed to spur the creation of a demonstrator turbine as early as 2024.
Host said other tenants on site include SESCO Cement, Top Vegetable Oils, Shawcor, Vestas Windpower, American Sugar and U.S. Minerals.
The Avondale media tour concluded with remarks from Adam Anderson and Paul Matthews, CEO of the Port of South Louisiana.
The two shared expressed their enthusiasm for AGG’s future and answered questions about the methods used to determine the original and revised purchase prices of the property.
“One year ago, when we opened our doors, we had no idea that our revenue and our projections and our employment numbers would be where they are today,” said Anderson.
“We’ve got 300 employees, just with Host, as well as tenants, and we have over 150 vendors here every day working on site.”
Anderson said he believes the partnership with PortSL will unlock more of Avondale’s potential.
“Moving forward, you can see industry clusters will work on synergies from each other and continue to develop into little mini industrial parks here using the deepwater facilities and other natural advantages we have here,” he said. “We want to prioritize industry diversity. We’re not looking for one single anchor tenant or one big fish in order to avoid what happened before when the shipyard took a turn and this place shut the doors.”
This story was updated on Sept. 20 to include an additional quote from James Martin.