JeffBoat launches final vessel as Jeffersonville makes plan for its future
The offer Mayor Mike Moore is making to the company for its prime location.
JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) - After decades of building barges in Southern Indiana, JeffBoat launched its final vessel Monday.
For the last 180 years, skilled workers have been building barges under various company names along the Ohio River. JeffBoat took over in the 1930's and once boasted to be the largest inland shipyard in the country.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore was there to watch the ceremonial launch. "JeffBoat is not just a place that built barges. They built the city of Jeffersonville."
Video captured on a cell phone by Moore's son showed a sign on the barge that said "JeffBoat family, past and present, Thank You!" This was the plant's 12,917th vessel.
Mayor Moore says he had a mix of emotions, as he watched the barge glide down a ramp and into the water with a big splash.
"Our world is changing. We're not a community any more that builds barges," he said.
JeffBoat announced last month it would close down for good. The company said it would review the best alternatives for the shipyard, after launching the final barge. Jeffersonville's mayor has an offer.
"I've put in a very serious request for them to donate that land to the city of Jeff. And that's really not that far-fetched of an idea. They would get a huge tax write off for gifting that property," Moore said.
In return, the city would take on the expense of environmental testing and cleanup of the property. That's something Moore says Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has already promised to help cover.
"He said let me know what we can do. Certainly any other expenses for environmental cleanup, we can help," Moore said.
And if JeffBoat built the city, the mayor promises whatever goes in next will carry Jeffersonville into the future.
"Sixty-five acres along the Ohio River is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We want to see that property converted into something new. Something that's going to produce good jobs, good quality of life, good living opportunities." Moore adds, "Louisville did it. Jeff can do it."
Moore said he'd like to see housing, shops, companies, even a sports complex here. Something he doesn't want to see? More heavy industry.
Moore also promised the city would do everything possible to take care of and help those skilled workers who lost their jobs at JeffBoat.
The mayor said he has been in discussions with a big company that is looking to relocate. Moore said that company would require a workforce of certified welders. The company is reportedly considering moving to the River Ridge area. Moore said he hopes to hear a final word soon, and he promised to alert the former JeffBoat workers immediately.
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