OUR OPINION: General Atomics expands with more technology jobs

General Atomics, a prized industrial investor in south Lee County, announced Monday morning with the fanfare of a gubernatorial visit that it will add 80 jobs and a $12 million investment at its campus in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South.

The company, with an international high technology profile and headquartered in San Diego, will add capacitors to its production lines, in the process increasing employment to about 150 people with jobs that pay an average of about $47,900.

The plant manufactures electro-magnetic launch and arresting systems for aircraft carriers, considered a major advance over long-used steam-propelled systems.

The plant is part of the Electromagnetic Systems Group, which is relocating the production components of several well-established product lines from the former GA Electronic Systems, Inc., which recently merged with EMS, a statement from the company said.

The relocated product lines provide equipment and services to the defense, nuclear, oil and energy storage industries. They will locate in the vacant Heritage Bag building; the 87,650-square-foot facility joins GA’s existing campus, which since first opening in 2005 has expanded to 367,000 square feet.

Senior Vice President of EMS Scott Forney said, “While we have much work to do to ensure a successful start-up of all product lines, we also have the confidence to say that continued growth is expected.”

The Mississippi Development Authority provided $1 million in assistance for the expansion, a not an unusual amount for an industry with a strong, successful record. The Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation provided assistance for renovations, which is more or less standard operating procedure.

General Atomics is an advanced technology company with more than a half century of experience of work in its portfolio. It is known for successfully producing new and innovative systems for proven military and defense technologies and other advanced science needs.

Throughout its corporate history, GA has been recognized for its ability to meet major multidisciplinary technical challenges.

There was a time arguably when Northeast Mississippi had a difficult time attracting high technology industries like GA, but intense workforce development and emphasis on education attainment in high school, community colleges and universities has changed the dynamic of what our region can offer and the investors who show interest.