Small Towns: Shipbuilding Industry in Sturgeon Bay

Posted at 10:41 PM, Sep 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-04 23:41:29-04

Sturgeon Bay was built on the ship building industry along the shore of Lake Michigan. But today there’s only one major ship yard remaining there. Tonight in Small Towns NBC26 brings you on a voyage to check out the Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding Company where they are keeping the profession of ship building alive.


Shipbuilding has been a part of Sturgeon Bay’s back story since at least the 1830’s. At that point sail boats and wooden vessels dominated production in town.


By the early 1900’s there were several ship yards in town utilizing the bay. The ships started getting larger and larger over the years, until they were being constructed with steel. That’s around the time that the industry suddenly was employing several thousands of people. But fast forward to 2018, and there is only one major ship builder left.


 “We are really the only large scale active ship builder left in Sturgeon Bay. I think from a community perspective we hang onto the heritage and linage of building and fixing boats in Sturgeon Bay,” says Todd Thayse the Vice President at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding.


Today Fincantieri employs anywhere from 600 to 1200 men and women a year, usually tallying about a million to a million and a half man hours during that time. These are the folks who keep the profession of building and repairing ships, alive in town.


 “There’s whole families, there’s sons and a father that work in this shipyard,” adds Thayse.


“We don’t deliver what we deliver, we don’t do what we do, without a dedication,” adds Stewart Fett the Production Manager.


On a typical year the crew will repair upwards of 15 ships in the port. On the new construction side of things they’ll produce one tug and one barge over the course of the year. But while the number of the production of ships being built here may not be what it once was, most in town and the employees on sight are glad, Sturgeon Bay continues to leave their mark on the maritime industry.


“It says something. It really says there is true dedication to the industry. There is true dedication of our people to delivering products to our customers and true dedication to the community,” adds Fett.