By Dennis Seid
SHANNON – Even as equipment and materials are arriving for General Atomics’ latest expansion, the company already is planning to add more room.
On Monday, the San Diego-based technology company and defense contractor revealed its latest move, an $11 million investment that will more than double its workforce here.
General Atomics, which broke ground on its state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in the Tupelo Lee Industrial Park South in 2004, has now expanded its operations here eight times.
Monday’s gathering of company leaders, along with state and local officials including Gov. Phil Bryant, was a ribbon-cutting to show off the newly renovated 87,650-square-foot facility that once was home to Heritage Bag.
The project brings the company’s Electromagnetic Systems Group closer together with its recently merged GA Electronic Systems.
The latter builds, among other products, advanced circuit boards and capacitors used by the company and other customers.
“We’re one of only two companies in the U.S. that still do this kind of work,” said plant manager Pete Rinaldi.
General Atomics has developed EMALS – electromagnetic aircraft launch system – which will be used in the newest U.S. Navy aircraft carrier. Instead of using traditional steam propulsion, EMALS uses a linear motor drive. GA also developed the arresting gear which “catches” and stops the planes when they land.
Rinaldi said EMALS uses more than 8,000 circuit boards, plus more than 1,000 capacitors of all sizes.
Having those components nearby and made in-house will bring down the cost of overhead and improve efficiency.
The components aid the nuclear, oil and energy storage industries.
General Atomics senior vice president of EMS, Scott Forney said, “There is significant upward potential in many of these products which we are adding to our manufacturing base in Mississippi. While we have much work to do to ensure a successful startup of all product lines, we also have the confidence to say that continued growth is expected.”
He added later, “I think this is just the beginning.”
Bryant said he hopes to be around for the ninth, 10th and 11th expansions.
“These are generational jobs. … we’ll see these jobs affect the children and grandchildren of the workers here and generations to come,” he said.