Governor Robert Bentley, U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, Auburn Mayor Bill Ham, Jr. and Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard were among those who joined GE Aviation executives at the event.
The 300,000ft2 advanced manufacturing plant will produce precision, super-alloy machined parts for GE jet engines that will power future commercial and military aircraft, and also to support the vast fleet of GE jet engines already in service.
Following the start of construction today, the facility is on schedule to open in late 2012. Limited hiring will begin next year. Additional hiring is slated for 2013 as production begins to ramp up. GE Aviation's goal is to employ 300 to 400 people when the plant is at full ramp-up later this decade.
GE Aviation selected Auburn in large part because of its access to a skilled workforce and its proximity to Alabama's university system. The facility is expected to develop collaborative relationships with Auburn University and Tuskegee University. This week, GE Aviation will begin recruiting at both Alabama campuses.
"GE Aviation has enjoyed significant success establishing 'Centers of Excellence' that focus on specific aviation components and processes within our supply chain," says Colleen Athans, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation. "We are very excited to add Auburn to our network of manufacturing operations."
The new Alabama facility underscores the growth of GE Aviation, where deliveries of commercial engines for GE and its partner companies will grow in 2012, approaching record levels. Over the next several years, GE Aviation will invest hundreds of millions of dollars across its more than 30 operations in the U.S., including two new manufacturing operations in neighboring Mississippi. GE Aviation employs approximately 17,000 workers in manufacturing in the U.S.
In 2011, deliveries of commercial engines produced by GE Aviation, CFM International (50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma of France), and the Engine Alliance (50/50 joint company of GE and Pratt & Whitney) will grow approximately more than 10% over 2010 deliveries of 2,000 engines.
Combined with GE's military engines, total engine deliveries in 2011 for GE Aviation and its partner companies are expected to reach 3,200 engines.
The Auburn groundbreaking ceremony comes on the heels of the Supplier Symposium that GE Aviation hosted in Tuscaloosa last month, attended by more than 100 Alabama companies. The symposium was held to expand GE's aerospace supplier network throughout Alabama.
In addition to supporting GE's anticipated growth in new engines, advanced components manufactured in Auburn will also support the enormous base of GE engines already in operational service. For example, GE and its partner companies currently operate more than 18,000 commercial jet engines in airline service, and by 2015, it is expected to grow to 24,000 engines.