EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Eastern Fleet Commander of the Saudi Royal Navy Fahad Al-Shomrami and his command tour the offices at the Maritime Center of Excellence before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that represents the start of construction of four new Multi-mission Combatant Ships (MMSCS) for Saudi Arabia.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Eastern Fleet Commander of the Saudi Royal Navy Fahad Al-Shomrami and his command tour the offices at the Maritime Center of Excellence before the ribbon-cutting ceremony that represents the start of construction of four new Multi-mission Combatant Ships (MMSCS) for Saudi Arabia.

MARINETTE — Opportunity is an engine powered by hard work, innovation and dedication.  

A quiet little ceremony Wednesday at the Wisconsin Maritime Center for Excellence, a building owned and operated by inVenture North, revealed the potential for huge opportunity in Marinette.

Hosting various officials from the city and state, representatives from Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine, as well as high-ranking Royal Saudi Navy officers, inVenture North zeroed in on one of the more distinctive assets that places Marinette on the big map, opening up a world of opportunity. The company is currently providing the space for the management team and construction oversight of the new multi-mission surface combatant ship (MMSC) contract between the United States and the Saudi Navy. 

Wednesday, inVenture North hosted the Saudi and U.S. shipbuilding management teams to celebrate a ribbon-cutting that represents the start of the project which will include four Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) with fixed mission systems (the MMSC) for the Saudi Navy.  

For Wisconsin Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, the MMSC contract creates an important stepping stone to another opportunity at Marinette Marine: acquiring the U.S. Navy’s new guided missile frigate contract. The Fincantieri Marinette Marine represents one of four companies in contention for the contract, which Hansen said would represent a huge deal for the city.

“I think the (Saudi contract) represents a middle and a necessary step for expansion. It keeps people working,” Hansen said. “And for Marinette to be competitive (on a world stage) on the Menominee River is amazing. We are dealing with so many jobs and so much opportunity in Marinette.”  

The U.S. Navy’s Project Manager of Ships (PMS 525) Todd Tompkins, reiterated the immense opportunity that spaces like inVenture North’s Maritime Center of Excellence provide to the Navy, Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri. 

Tompkins pointed out how the Marinette community built the Freedom-class LCS, which now represents an asset in which other nations and navies are interested. When nations like Saudi Arabia send their people halfway around the world to acquire that asset, it says something about the city. 

“It is unique,” Tompkins said. “It is not something that just happens any place. It happens in a community like this that comes together to create something that is unique and special.” 

And that represents a primary initiative of inVenture North: to serve as an incubator for ideas, new businesses and various community programs and projects in the Marinette-Menominee area. It works to promote both blue and white-collar jobs within the area through initiatives related to tourism, community based economic development, business retention and expansion and creation of distinctive assets, like the LCS.

inVenture North also aims to find solutions to various rural community issues through economic and community development such as workforce expansion, apprenticeships and training. 

“I think rural America is starting to get a lot of attention, especially when we have so much industry under the trees,” said inVenture North Director of Marketing & Communication Roberta Davis. 

She was referring to the recent national attention placed on Marinette by high-level Washington officials like  Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council Scott Turner and Vice President Mike Pence. 

“By having (those) officials and light shined on the Marinette-Menominee area, I think it just goes to bode that we are doing the right thing,” Davis added. 

In addition, Executive Director of inVenture North Pontius said, in the past, the inVenture North served host to several activities that extend across the spectrum of STEM fields and beyond, such as artificial intelligence seminars. More specifically, one initiative the company supports involves the field of additive manufacturing, which Pontius described as 3D printing but on an industrial scale. According to Pontius, additive manufacturing represents a $2 to $3 trillion industry in the next ten years and one that is extremely relevant to ship building and other industries. 

“We want to establish a training center and technology center to attract skilled workers and also entrepreneurial business to the area,” Pontius said.  

In the end, expansion of an industry or business comes down to customer satisfaction. During Wednesday’s ribbon cutting the satisfied customers stood out with unique and welcome diversity. In his military dress uniform, the Eastern Fleet Commander of the Saudi Royal Navy Fahad Al-Shomrami accentuated another vital component of progress that inVenture North nurtures.

“Visiting the United States makes good relations between our two countries and peoples,” Al-Shomrami said. “It builds friendship.”