Belfast wins $200,000 grant to help Front Street Shipyard

The Front Street Shipyard in Belfast continues to grow.
The Front Street Shipyard in Belfast continues to grow. Buy Photo
Posted Oct. 26, 2012, at 8:44 p.m.

BELFAST, Maine — The city has won a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant that will be matched by at least that much investment by the Front Street Shipyard.

The money will go toward improving the site of the former Belfast Boatyard, which the Shipyard purchased last month. For its part, Front Street Shipyard must create 10 full-time equivalent jobs, with at least half of those going to people of low and moderate income, over the next two years.

The city applied for the CDBG funding just last month, Thomas Kittredge, Belfast’s economic development director, said Friday. The public-private cooperative nature of the venture is unusual, he said, but it will help Front Street Shipyard remain competitive in servicing the high-end yachts that already make up most of the company’s business.

With the funding, the shipyard will purchase a crane that can lift up to 30 tons. The money also will cover the cost of installing a concrete pad to support the crane and improve the bulkhead that lines the shore of the former boatyard.

Expanding to the former boatyard site gives the shipyard access to deeper water, Service Manager Justin Wiegleb explained.

Currently, larger vessels must be brought to docks at or near high tide. When masts of the large yachts are “unstepped,” or removed and laid flat on the ground, the vessels are brought into the dock bow first or stern first, and the crane must reach out across part of the length of the boat.

Under the new system, vessels will dock alongside the bulkhead, and the new crane will not have to reach as far. The farther it reaches, the less weight-bearing capacity the crane has, Wiegleb said.

“We’ll be able to unstep masts right there,” he said.

The grant also will help the shipyard build a marine heated-spray paint booth that will enable it to perform consistently high-quality paint work.

“This grant is really going to help the yard,” Wiegleb said.

Currently, the shipyard employs about 90. Kittredge said that in Waldo County, to fall into the moderate- and low-income category, the household income for a family of four would need to be $43,900 or lower. The yard must hire five people who meet the moderate- to low-income guidelines to satisfy the grant requirements.

Kittredge said the improvements that will be made at the shipyard will mean more tax value for the city and will boost the waterfront and harbor. The shipyard brings wealthy yacht owners or their vessel’s captain and crews to Belfast, where they spend money both at the shipyard and around town.

The jobs provided by the shipyard, which opened in Belfast a little over a year ago, also provide economic health, Kittredge said.

“We look at the big picture,” he said, in applying for such grants.

In a joint statement from the shipyard and the city, Front Street Shipyard’s president JB Turner said: “Our continued close working relationship with the city has been one of the keys to our success. The city’s involvement and help throughout our rapid growth has been unprecedented in my career. Time and time again, when called upon for quick, decisive action, Belfast in total has come to our aid.”

Belfast Mayor Walter Ash said in the statement that the city “is very happy to have secured this important grant and to see Front Street Shipyard be able to continue to add more employees, and we are very excited about the shipyard’s future growth prospects.”

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