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The Exchange ft. Special Guest Craig Perciavalle, President of Austal USA

(Above: Yellowhammer News CEO Cliff Sims interviews Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle)

Craig Perciavalle kicked off 2013 by becoming President of Austal USA, America’s largest aluminum shipbuilding company, with roughly 4,000 employees in Mobile, Ala. A little over a year later, he’s leading the company through a period of unprecedented growth and cranking out the most advanced ships the U.S. Navy has ever had in its fleet. Austal is currently building Joint High-Speed Vessels (JHSV) and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), both of which are so fast that their top speed is classified.

Mr. Perciavalle sat down with Yellowhammer CEO Cliff Sims this week for The Exchange, a regular feature in which Yellowhammer discusses current events and other topics with a state or national business leader or political figure, or notable Alabamian.

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Did you know Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., tried to kill the Littoral Combat Ship, but Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., saved it? Did you know the most advanced ships in the Navy are being run on Microsoft Windows? Find out about that and so much more — including what’s making Alabama so attractive to companies around the world — by watching the video above.

Here are some of the top quotes from this week’s sit-down with Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle.

On what it’s like to operate the Navy’s most advanced ships:

The command infrastructure on the ship is Windows based. It basically looks like you’re looking at your desktop in your office. It’s got all the permissions and all the security features that are necessary to be in a military environment. But at the end of the day, it enables us to upgrade the systems on the ship, or ‘plug-and-play’ other weapons or other mission packages on the ship much more easily than a traditional Navy ship has been able to do in the past.

On working with Alabama’s Congressional delegation:

It’s phenomenal… I’ve been in this position for a little over a year now and the appreciation that I have for what they do has just gone beyond my imagination… They provide a tremendous amount of support for us — both with state support with supporting the operations, as well as support on the Hill.

On an Alabama-built ship making it into a Disney movie that made a half-billion dollars at the box office:

It’s the LCS Independence. It’s Tony Trihull in the Cars 2 Movie. We didn’t know it was going to happen. We had some employees that were sitting in the movie theater and they were like, ‘Holy cow, that’s our ship!’

Tony Trihull from Cars 2 (Photo: Pixar Films)
Tony Trihull from Cars 2 (Photo: Pixar Films)

On what’s making Alabama so attractive to companies right now:

First and foremost is the support the state gives industry here. They realize they need to provide support for companies to have them move to the area and grow the economics of the state. That’s been tremendous for us with AIDT training. We get a lot of support with that. We’ve had some support in the facility growth that we’ve had — both from the county, the City of Mobile and the State of Alabama. That partnership between the State of Alabama and industry is really second to none from what I’ve seen… That’s the main reason why people are attracted to come into the state… That’s just going to make the state of Alabama grow into an incredible economic powerhouse going forward.

On Austal employees rejecting unionization 3 times and Alabama’s status as a right-to-work state:

That’s probably the second leading attractive part of being in the State of Alabama — a right to work state… We focus on treating our employees right and creating a very good work environment for them.

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