On the banks of the Connecticut River, a new business begins refurbishing US Coast Guard boats

PORTLAND – An Australian company awarded a 10-year, $190 million contract with the U.S. government to refurbish Coast Guard vessels late last week unveiled its newly acquired production facility on the Connecticut River.

The Birden Group, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, bought a pair of marinas on Riverview Avenue last spring for $4.6 million. Riverview Marina and Yankee Boat Yard and Marina have 31 acres of frontage on the east bank of the Connecticut River.

Both marinas will continue to serve recreational yachts, but Birden’s primary use for the site will be as a production facility. The Portland location is the company’s first on the East Coast.

Bearden has a similar production facility in Bellingham, Washington.

“A year ago, this was just an idea,” Ned Lamont said as he celebrated Bearden’s move to Connecticut on Friday. But the state has been building boats for centuries.

State Sen. Norman Needleman, D-Essex, said refurbishing the ships could be done for a third of the cost of buying new ones. A government contract calls for 107 aging motor lifeboats to be retrofitted into a Coast Guard vessel type.

“It’s amazing to have Birdon here,” Needleman said.

Birdon America President Rob Scott said work on 65 of the ships will be done in Connecticut.

The first of the refurbished ships arrived in Portland in July, company officials said.

Birdon’s Portland facility will take about two years to ramp up to full production. Scott said.

About two dozen people currently work at the manufacturing facility, but Scott said the workforce will grow to 75 within two years. At the time, he said, the facility was producing 12 refurbished boats a year.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the Connecticut Service Academy “has a special connection to the Coast Guard” because it is located in New London.

“These boats are going to save lives,” Blumenthal said.

He echoed Needleman’s sentiments about the importance of Bearden coming to Portland.

“But at the same time we’re trying to save lives, this contract also saves us money,” Blumenthal said.

First-round pick Ryan Curley of Portland said Bearden’s decision to come to Portland is “really big for us.”

“They’re bringing high-skill, high-paying jobs to the city, like welding and electrical engineers,” said Curley, a first-time voter after the November 2021 election.

But to meet the needs of companies like Bearden for skilled tradespeople, Needleman said the state needs a comprehensive approach.

“I think we’re all looking at a lot of work ahead,” he said.


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