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Originally published Saturday, June 12, 2010 at 10:00 PM

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Shipbuilder to the Washington State Ferries

Business at this venerable Seattle shipbuilding and repair company ebbs and flows like the tide, though a lot less predictably. Todd relies for much...

Founded: 1916

Headquarters: Seattle

Major operations: Seattle, Everett

CEO: Stephen Welch

Employees: 550

Major products/services: Shipbuilding and repair, for both military and commercial vessels

Special sauce: It's hard to argue with nearly a century of experience.

Business at this venerable Seattle shipbuilding and repair company ebbs and flows like the tide, though a lot less predictably.

Todd relies for much of its business on contracts with the U.S. government, mainly the Navy and Coast Guard. Its core deal is a renewable five-year contract for non-nuclear repair and maintenance work on the Navy's aircraft carriers stationed in Puget Sound.

Government contracts accounted for 61 percent of Todd's revenue in fiscal 2009. The actual volume of work, though, depends on the needs of the services, which vary considerably depending on their ships' schedules and needs.

The result: Over the past five years, Todd's revenue has ranged between $113.5 million (fiscal 2009) and $201.9 million (fiscal 2006); profit, which doesn't necessarily track revenue because of the way the contracts are structured, has been as high as $9 million and as low as $3.2 million.

Todd does more repair work than shipbuilding these days, but does make some exceptions. It's currently building a new 64-car ferry for Washington State Ferries, scheduled for the Port Townsend-Keystone run, and last October received orders for two more. The three orders total $179.6 million, and WSF has an option for a fourth ferry.

Todd also has a deal to design four 144-car ferries for WSF, but when (and whether) those boats actually get built depends on budget decisions in Olympia.

One cloud on Todd's horizon: The Navy's Puget Sound contracting office has questioned some of the company's cost-accounting practices. The company says it's working with the Navy to resolve the issue, and has set aside $1.7 million in case it has to make refunds.

And sometimes having a long history works against you. Earlier this year Todd agreed to pay the Port of Tacoma $1.3 million for hazardous-waste contamination at a former shipyard — even though the company hadn't been there since the end of World War II.

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