In Maine, a History of Bold Claims and Vague Commitments From General Dynamics

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When he gave his keynote address before the Chamber of Commerce of the Greater Portland Region in September 1997, then General Dynamics CEO Nicholas D. Chabraja had reason to celebrate.

It’d been two years since his company, annually among the nation’s largest defense contractors, had acquired local shipyard Bath Iron Works, and not long since it secured a $194-million megadeal with the state of Maine and the city of Bath to subsidize a massive infrastructure “modernization” at its newly acquired facility.

Chabraja decided to thank the more than 700 people gathered at the Holiday Inn By The Bay, as the Portland Press Herald reported, for the apparent role their community played in assuring the viability of a major Maine employer for decades to come.

“A great old shipyard that got its start in the 19th century will have all the support necessary to be a formidable shipbuilder well into the 21st century,” Chabraja, who stepped down as CEO in 2009, said, according to the paper. “In support of BIW, you’ve put your money on the people of Maine—and on a shipyard that will now be around for another hundred years.”

But, little more than 20 years on, officials at General Dynamics are no longer so sanguine. They’re back at the negotiating table, saying the company needs an extension of a key $60-million tax credit component of the 1997 deal in order to remain competitive with a rival shipbuilder in Mississippi.

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