Fraser Shipyards announces new projectsFraser Shipyards announces plan for $2 million federal appropriation, building new line of boats
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Following an old-fashioned principle, U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, D-Wausau, stopped at Fraser Shipyard in Superior to learn more about how the 120-year-old business on Howard’s Pocket plans to use a $2 million appropriation from the federal government.
The principle: If you spend the taxpayers’ money, you better know how it’s going to be used, the congressman said Tuesday to a warehouse filled with shipyard workers and local dignitaries.
Obey secured a $2 million appropriation for the city of Superior to continue improvements to the shipyard’s bulkhead wall. It’s the second phase of a three-phase project to improve the shipbuilding facility in North End.
The first phase of the project received about $3.7 million from the state’s Harbor Assistance Program to help fund the $4.7 million project to place about 700 feet of sheet piling.
“The $2 million that Dave got for us is going to go for … about 420 feet of repairs that need to be made,” said Jim Korthals, chief operating officer for Fraser Shipyards. Once that’s complete, he said Fraser Shipyard plans to upgrade the electrical systems on the pier and in the shipyard.
“We’ve been here since 1890 and some of the guys think the electrical system was put in about the same time,” Korthals said. “So we’re looking at upgrading that a little bit.”
Once the upgrades are made to the and pier, Korthals said, the shipyard will be able to safely handle heavy lifts, saving time and better serving customers, without putting workers at jeopardy.
The company plans to initiate the work as soon as the funding is disbursed, and expects to hire 15 to 20 additional workers during the project.
“It’s a great deal, not only for Fraser Shipyard, but for the city, said Jason Serck, Superior’s port and planning director. “We’re talking not only about investing in the property; we’re talking about investing in jobs.”
He said it could be a couple months before the project goes out to bid.
“I could not imagine the city of Superior without Fraser Shipyards,” Obey said. “When I first started representing Douglas County some of the old-timers will remember a fellow by the name of Frenchie LeRoux; he worked on the lakes and he took great pride in the work everybody else did on the lakes as well. And he especially took pride in Fraser. So I’m really pleased we could help both the city and the company by way of a partnership with the federal government in order to promote the economic health of the area and produce good quality products at the same time.”
Obey congratulated the company for its cooperative effort to move the project forward.
“I hope people can come back here in another 100 years and still see this company operating and providing jobs for people,” Obey said.
“It’s another investment into our port, which is a great thing,” Serck said.
Over the last few years, more than $10 million has been poured into port improvements with projects like dock wall repairs at the General Mills elevator, Cenex-Harvest States and Hallett Dock No. 8 in Superior.
Korthals said the commitment from Obey encouraged the company to purchase a custom boat building business in Elk River, Minn.
Lake Assault Custom Boats was founded in 2003 by Jerry Atherton, who sold the company to Fraser in December. Atherton is now the company’s director of sales and product development. During its short history the company has built about 50 boats, which include custom fishing boats, landing craft and emergency response vessels for fire departments, police and search and rescue operations.
“We were just growing so rapidly; we were growing every year,” Atherton said. He said the rapid growth and the capital requirements to building the boats got so big, it was beyond his ability to do with his workforce. With Fraser’s facilities and workforce, it was just a good fit for his company, he said.
“I was just too small and we were at that level where we were selling boats nationally,” Atherton said.