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Aircraft engines maker Rolls-Royce to build plant in Virginia

Rolls-Royce, the world's second largest maker of aircraft engines, will open a plant in Virginia to assemble and test engines for midsize jets.

The London company, which has its North American headquarters in Chantilly, will initially invest $100 million (67.6 million EUR), Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said at a news conference.

The plant about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Richmond is scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2009. Rolls-Royce has options to invest up to $500 million (338 million EUR) for future manufacturing projects in both defense and civil aerospace business.

Kaine said the new facility helps solidify Virginia's place as a global leader, underscoring the importance of globalism that started at the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown more than 400 years ago.

"There isn't any reason why our commonwealth can't embrace global trade and feel optimistic about it," Kaine said, touting Virginia's airports and ports.

James M. Guyette, president and chief executive officer for Rolls-Royce's North American operation, said the company's decision to locate the plant in Virginia has to do with its people and strong education system.

As part of the project, research and development capabilities will be provided by Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, which will construct the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing at the site to conduct research with Rolls-Royce employees.

The facility will assemble and test the RB282 engine, selected by France's Dassault Aviation for its new super midsize business jet and potentially the first in a family of small engines for corporate and regional jets, the company said. It announced plans earlier this month to close its turbine plant in Liverpool, England.

The plant also will have the capability to produce components for the F136, an advanced fighter engine for the Department of Defense's Joint Strike Fighter.

Kaine approved $3 million (2 million EUR) in Governor's Opportunity Funding for each of the projects. Rolls-Royce also qualifies for state benefits and training assistance.