An analysis of Bath Iron Works’ far-reaching impact on the Maine economy released Tuesday highlighted the shipyard’s success in importing and training new workers, a model labor experts call a vital step toward combating the state’s aging workforce.

The independent analysis, conducted by the University of Southern Maine’s Center for Business and Economic Research, found BIW supported more than $8.4 billion in total economic activity in Maine between 2017 and 2021. That figure includes the shipyard’s payroll and operational spending as well as other local spending for which it was indirectly responsible — including wages employees from BIW and its vendors spent on health care, food and housing.

“BIW is reflective of the very type of industry that you want in your state,” said Dana Connors, president and CEO of the Maine Chamber of Commerce. “[The report] reminds us how fortunate we are.”

Sen. Angus King, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised the shipyard for both its military and economic impact.

“Bath Iron Works has long been a cornerstone of Maine communities and the backbone of America’s Navy,” King wrote in a statement. “This report puts into numbers what we already know from the Maine faces and businesses we interact with every day. Making up 17% of Maine’s manufacturing GDP, supporting nearly 12,000 Maine jobs and providing $1.8 billion in economic impact (all 2021 numbers), Bath Iron Works is a truly vital and irreplaceable component of Maine and our nation’s economy.”

BIW directly employed over 6,600 workers in 2021, according to the report, an increase of 17% from 2011. That growth significantly outstripped gains in total statewide employment over the same period, which totaled 5%.


That growth is partly due to aggressive efforts to bring in labor from Maine and beyond, according to the report. BIW invested $130 million in training and recruitment of skilled workers over the past decade and hired about 1,000 employees per year over the past five years.

In 2021, at least 690 new hires came from out of state, a trend Connors called “critical” for the future of Maine, where deaths have outnumbered births for more than a decade.

As older workers retire, Maine and its employers must find ways to both train younger employees and woo labor from across the state line, according to Department of Labor Spokesperson Jessica Picard.

“Part of the state’s 10-year economic plan involves attracting 75,000 people to Maine’s talent pool, including from out of state,” Picard wrote in a statement. “The Mills Administration is proud to work with Bath Iron Works as they recruit, employ and train thousands of Mainers for quality, in-demand jobs through workforce programs such as registered apprenticeship and the Maine Hire-A-Vet Campaign.”

While BIW has had success over the last several years building its workforce, widespread housing and child care shortages continue to pose challenges for recruitment and retention, President Chuck Krugh wrote in a statement. He called for public-private partnerships to tackle the issues, a refrain echoed by Bath City Manager Marc Meyers.

“We’ve had a great working relationship with BIW and look forward to continuing to partner to find solutions to help them with recruitment and retention,” said Meyers, who cited Bath’s new accessory dwelling unit rules as a positive step forward. “We would like to be able to do our part to help assist in that, whether it’s trying to help with affordable housing [or] transportation-related issues.”

While local and state lawmakers work with nonprofit groups and employers to lower barriers to transplant workers, Sen. King and Rep. Jared Golden hope to spend the coming weeks securing the Navy contracts that allow BIW to continue its growth.

“This report demonstrates the importance of the shipbuilding defense industrial base and the need for Congress to provide the predictability and consistency that the shipyard needs to continue to make the highest quality ships, train and hire skilled shipbuilders, and continue to have a mammoth impact on this state’s economy,” Golden wrote in a statement. “To that end, I’m proud to have secured authorization for a third DDG-51 destroyer, in addition to a contract for the construction of up to 15 DDGs over the next five years, in this year’s annual defense authorization bill.”

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