PORT ST. JOE (WMBB) — Eastern Shipbuilding had its grand opening event for its new facility at Port St. Joe on Thursday. The facility is already operational, with about 125 employees, and around 200 people working on the vessels daily, President of Eastern Shipbuilding, Joey D’isernia said. 

Planning for the facilities opening began in 2012-13, before being delayed due to Hurricane Michael and the COVID-19 pandemic, D’isernia said. With over 100 jobs already created by the creation of the plant, there are expectations that the facility will improve the local economy.

“This area has had some economic challenges after some of the industrial jobs were lost within the last couple of decades so we’re proud to be here,” D’isernia said. “We hope to be here for a long time.”

Prior to the opening of the shipbuilding facility, the location in Gulf County used to be a paper mill. However, the paper mill left Port St. Joe about 20 years ago. Since then, Representative Neal Dunn said this is the best economic news the town has received.

“It’s huge, you feel it in this town,” Dunn said. “They’re telling me that this is the biggest deal they’ve had in 20 years – and that was bad news back then.”

Dunn expects that with Eastern Shipbuilding locating to Port St. Joe, other companies will be inclined to follow. 

“Eastern doesn’t just bring its own jobs, it brings a lot of jobs that support Eastern,” 

Dunn said. “And I’ve even been talking to the people who own the railroad that comes into town, and they’re watching to say “hey is there something we can do to put the line, refurbish the railroad?”

D’isernia expects the company to bring people into the job, thereby boosting local restaurants and businesses.

The facility is currently working on two Staten Island ferries, which will travel to New York for usage once they are complete.