A proposed design for the guided missile frigate FFG(X). Credit: Courtesy of Bath Iron Works

A bipartisan coalition of Wisconsin legislators sent a letter Monday to President Donald Trump pressing him to direct a lucrative U.S. Navy frigate construction contract to a Marinette shipyard.

Fincantieri Marinette Marine is locked in a fierce contest with Bath Iron Works in Maine; Austal USA of Alabama; and Huntington Ingalls of Mississippi. Lockheed Martin of Baltimore was also in the running for the contract before withdrawing from consideration during the first half of 2019. Whichever wins the deal would be expected to build two frigates annually from 2021 to 2030. Each ship is expected to cost about $900 million each.

Wisconsin Rep. John Nygren, who represents Marinette in the state Assembly, persuaded 54 Republican and Democrats from the Assembly and Senate to sign on to the letter to Trump.

The letter paints Fincantieri Marinette Marine as a vital economic engine in northeastern Wisconsin. The frigate contract would generate another 1,000 jobs for the region, the letter said. If the Navy hands the contract to someone else, however, Fincantieri could end up closing its shipyard, the lawmakers warned.

“We have witnessed what the loss of opportunity does to the Midwest,” the letter said. “When industry departs, so does hope.”

The lawmakers conclude by telling Trump that his “leadership and attention to this opportunity is vital.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers last week announced a $29 million Harbor Assistance Program grant for upgrades at the Port of Marinette to facilitate frigate construction. The improvements will include a vertical ship lift, dock walls and bulkheads and dredging to deepen the harbor to accommodate construction of the larger vessels.

“These shipyard improvements ensure that Marinette Marine can continue to compete for U.S. Naval contracts, providing the area with good-paying, family-support jobs,” Evers said in the announcement. “Their success is vital to the success of the Marinette community and local economy.”