GROTON — Opportunities for Connecticut-based companies in the supply chain that services the undersea and maritime industries are increasing now that offshore wind has entered the market, according to Ali Halvordson executive director of the Naval and Maritime Consortium.
“The offshore wind supply chain is very immature in this country. It’s growing and we want to attract it as much [and] as early as possible from Europe,” said Halvordson in her office at UConn Avery Point on Feb. 4.
The consortium, formed in 2017, was originally known as the Connecticut Undersea Supply Chain Consortium and focused on the submarine industry, but that changed recently to include offshore wind, given the overlap of supply chains for the two industries.
“It just made a lot of sense in our overarching vision, as well to help companies diversify their portfolios beyond defense. It’s a lot of the same technology, a lot of the same goods and services on the commercial side,” she said.
Currently, Connecticut has more suppliers for the submarine industry than any other state, but only receives the 10th most contract value, Halvordson said.
The consortium is focused on changing that number by creating a network of companies that Halvordson describes as an industry “ecosystem.”
Halvordson, who grew up in Groton, worked at Electric Boat for 10 years, and has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, said that advanced manufacturing is one of Connecticut’s strengths, but the consortium can still help businesses navigate government contracting, and leverage that manufacturing strength into economic growth.
“How can we give these companies an edge, help them, make them aware of opportunities, help them bid. It can be very difficult to contract with the government,” she said.
The consortium recently hosted a workshop offering an introduction to the Office of Naval Research Navy Technology Manufacturing Program and the National Shipbuilding Research Program, which both fund manufacturing technology improvements.
“It was about how to reduce the total ownership of shipbuilding costs through innovative manufacturing processes,” she said. “It was [a presentation of] what the programs are– here’s what they’re looking for, here’s the timeline if you want to talk to someone, here are the conferences they go to, here are the points of contact — it was a great workshop.”
The consortium also organizes networking events and has an online members portal.
Halvordson said the growth in submarine production at Electric Boat will require a growth of suppliers. The idea is to grow those companies within Connecticut.
“Electric Boat will always buy from across the nation, but there’s a home court advantage here. It’s easier to communicate. It’s easier to monitor quality. If there’s an issue you can get there quickly in person — look someone eye to eye — not to mention things like shipping,” she said.
She said that the addition of offshore wind into the mix is a huge positive for the state.
“What is not to be optimistic about? We just got a $22 billion contract, the largest shipbuilding contract in American history — that’s significant. You have offshore wind coming, you have two ports in Connecticut that are going to be maxed out with wind, that’s great, how is that not good stuff?” she said.