For most struggling in the current economy, finding a job comes first, ideology second. But Mare Island industrial newcomer Blu Homes is aiming to package the two together, with a planned 80 local jobs created by year's end and a vision of no-waste manufacturing and an environmentally friendly "green" final product.

The company's available jobs, as with such opportunities in most areas, has a ready and willing audience.

Some 1,000 people turned out two months ago for the then-advertised 50 job openings with the 4-year-old company, with headquarters outside of Boston.

"(I am) so proud that they are in Vallejo, that they selected Vallejo, and the jobs that they'll create for the community, it's just exciting," Vallejo Economic Development Director Ursula Luna-Reynosa said. "Small businesses are ... creating this (new) economy. We often see new businesses with much smaller, 20 (to) 30 employees. This is a good size compared to that, and there are opportunities for it to grow. And the city is going to do whatever it can ... . We want to be there as they continue to grow."

Available workforce
Blu Homes officials said they were persuaded to set up shop in Vallejo because of the available workforce -- a combination of skilled workers prevalent in the East Bay, and the technological minds of Silicon Valley. The facility is likely one of the largest new manufacturing facilities to open this year in the Bay Area, officials said.

"Mare Island is continuing down the path of resurgence, and once again it's becoming a hub of economic activity in Vallejo and the North Bay," said Tom Sheaff, vice president of the former naval base's master developer, Lennar Mare Island, during the facility's opening ceremony Thursday.

Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis shared his support of not only the new company, but also its contribution toward the idea of a "green technology" island, clustering alternative energy and low environmental impact on Mare Island and Vallejo.

"I think it's kind of fitting that we take a historic shipyard that benefited the country and the world during war times, created jobs, and was a leader in shipbuilding and submarine building, and to bring a company that wants to revolutionize the way we build and sell homes," Davis said. "That is fantastic, it's a perfect fit."

In a pre-ceremony tour, Blu Homes co-founder and vice president of sales Maura McCarthy shared a similar sentiment concerning the facility's future on Mare Island.

"We're in the crown jewel of Mare Island, the biggest building," McCarthy said of the company's new 250,000-square-foot facility, a former Mare Island Naval Shipyard machine shop. "I believe in the cluster effect of green businesses. (The cluster) becomes much more a little mini-economy within an economy."

Happy for revival
The improvements, and reanimation of a long shuttered building -- the largest machine shop under one roof west of the Mississippi River in its time, former shipyard workers said, is something of a balm to the previous generation.

Several shipyard retirees commented on the most obvious change to the building -- its floor. New concrete replaced wooden blocks soaked in oil, a major improvement, some said. Friends John Chamberlin and Jack Tamargo served first as shop apprentices and later as general foremen for the former Building 680, the two said Thursday.

"When I came in the door, Aug. 15 of 1960, I looked all the way down the shop, and as far as you could see, there were nothing but individual machines and men running them and making parts," recalled Chamberlin, who now serves as secretary for the Mare Island Historic Park Foundation. "We were building ships and right around 800 men working here at the time ... in the war years we had 4,000 in the shop, in the '40s. "

Chamberlin said that while he does not think there's any comparison between the shop then and now, he supports Blu Homes' efforts to bring the facility back to life.

Tamargo recalled new equipment procured for the shop still coming in as the workforce was being reduced as the shipyard was nearing its 1996 closure.

"It was a sad thing to see, but we're glad to see the building is finally going to be used for something other than just a big empty building," Tamargo said.

"We wish Blu Homes well in their endeavor, that's for sure," Chamberlin added.

For more information Blu Homes and potential future job openings, visit the company's website online at, and click on the "careers" link at the bottom of the page.

Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or