For the past decade, Finantieri Marinette Marine has been a driving force to this area’s economy thanks largely to its production of littoral combat ships for the United States Navy. The LCS fleet will be highlighted by the future USS Marinette, currently under construction.

Thanks to a decision made on the last day of April, the shipyard will continue to be a focal point of the Twin Cities and beyond.

On April 30, FMM was awarded a nearly $800 million contract to build the first-in-class guided-missile frigate — called the FFGX — for the Navy, with an option for nine additional ships. If all options are exercised, the contract would be worth $5.5 billion. 

How huge is this contract? It’s expected to keep shipbuilders working for the next two decades and bring in up to 1,000 more employees. Construction of the LCS fleet will end about the same time the FFGX begins. FMM also is in the process of constructing multi-mission surface combatants (MMSC) for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot called the frigate contract a boom for not only Marinette, but the states of Wisconsin and Michigan and the nation. He cited the hundreds of subcontractors throughout the nation who work on parts for the ships.

U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, is a member of key House committees (Armed Services Committee and Seapower Committee) that helped to land the contract. He estimated that in addition to the 1,000 additional employees, about four times as many jobs will be created through subcontractors.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, also deserves some credit as earlier this year he circulated a letter among colleagues in the State Legislature in support of FMM. The letter, which was delivered to the Trump Administration, had bipartisan support with 54 Democrat and Republican senators and representatives signed onto it.

“I am ecstatic not only for my hometown but all of Wisconsin,” Nygren said in a statement.

We are too. This contract should provide a tremendous trickle-down effect with numerous businesses reaping the rewards. Grocery stores, restaurants, convenience stores, the housing industry and more should prosper.

With construction and design, the first frigate should be built by July 2026, but those that follow will be built much quicker. The second frigate is expected to be ordered in 2021 and delivered three months after the first frigate.  

The FFGX ships are much bigger than the LCS — 496 feet to about 388 feet in length and 65 feet to 58 feet across the beam. They also can sustain speeds of 26 knots.

Gallagher said the future frigates will be the “gold standard” for small surface combatants.

And those high-quality vessels will be built by the strong, dedicated workforce right here in Marinette.