Mare Island's former ship and submarine shop was reborn Thursday with a ceremonial flourish for its newest tenant, an event many hope Vallejo's post-bankruptcy economy will mirror.
Modular home builder Blu Homes' president Bill Haney cut the ceremonial ribbon at the company's new West Coast manufacturing facility before a crowd of more than 300 onlookers.
"This is a place American men and women ... came together to rebuild America's industrial power and stand up for Americans' values after our Pacific fleet was destroyed at Pearl Harbor," Haney told those gathered, "That same notion of coming together to rebuild a future is something that we want to be able to do, here."
The company, which began leasing the 250,000-square-foot former submarine and ship manufacturing and repair shop on Nimitz Avenue in September, has already hired 50 workers from the greater Vallejo area, and expects to add 30 more by year's end, Haney said.
"I really believe that Blu Homes and Vallejo are a perfect fit at a perfect time," Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis said during the ceremony. "I say that because we all on the council think it would be an excellent idea to have a 'green-tech' island here on Mare Island ... and this is the start."
Thursday's celebration drew local dignitaries, former Mare Island workers, potential Blu Homes clients and more. In addition to Haney and Davis, event speakers included Tom Sheaff, vice president for Lennar Mare Island, and Paul Guilfoyle, a Blu Homes board member and actor best known for his police detective role on the TV show "CSI."
Guilfoyle jokingly placed the entire audience under arrest before sharing why he had become part of the Blu Homes venture, with its "green" energy-efficient homes and construction.
"It's obvious that the game plan of home building has changed radically. The idea of these great giant castles of isolation based on fear, segregating community based on vanity, are going away like dinosaurs," Guilfoyle said. "Let's open up these doors, and let's all of us ... walk toward the light of the future, the Blu light."
Homes in various states of construction ringed parts of the building's perimeter, opened for viewing. The building, the size of four football fields, looks -- and is -- about four times too big for the amount of work going on inside right now, said company co-founder Maura McCarthy. She said she expects the facility to begin filling up within a year to 18 months.
"We loved the building, we love the area and the labor was the right fit for us," McCarthy said of Blu Homes' interest in the Mare Island site during a pre-ceremony tour.
Contact staff writer Jessica A. York at (707) 553-6834 or firstname.lastname@example.org.