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Multimillion-dollar federal grant to give McGinnis Inc. boost

SOUTH POINT — It’s all a part of getting ready for when the economy takes off. That’s the game plan for a recent almost $1.5 million grant that McGinnis Inc. has received.

Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation said it will be awarding to McGinnis $1,420,069 from the small shipyards grant program through the Maritime Administration.

“It is for equipment for the new fabrication shop so we can be more competitive,” Rick Griffith, president of the South Point barge repair and building facility, said. “It makes us more competitive on large repairs and new construction. We want to start building specialty barge equipment and tow boats.”

The grant will fund infrastructure improvements including a computerized cutting system, welding items, a press brake and an angle-bending roll.

With the computerized system dimensions are entered to make cuts automatically.

“You don’t have to have a guy with a handheld torch cutting,” Griffith said. “This cuts very fast, very clean and efficient.”

McGinnis is building a new fabrication shop at the same location as its automated sandblasting and painting facility near Sheridan. In the works is also moving its dry docks to this locale.

Large standard barges are normally built at such venues as Jeffboat Barge in Jeffersonville, Ind., and Trinity Industries at Tennessee and Louisiana.

“We can’t compete with that,” Griffith said.

However, specialty barges such as crane barges are usually bid out to smaller operations because the larger builders don’t want to have to alter the templates used to construct the bigger-sized structures.

The company’s goal is to build one or two tow boats and barges a year.

“Right now with the economy down, there is not a lot of demand but we will be ready,” he said. “We hope to create 50 jobs. It makes us more competitive and efficient.”