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General Atomics breaks ground on Tupelo manufacturing facility

Tupelo — A year from the day company leaders announced their intention to open a plant in North Mississippi, General Atomics celebrated the dedication of its new multimillion-dollar facility in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park. While full production is anticipated this spring, the manufacturer of military-aircraft launching systems expects a rapid pace during the next six months as the Tupelo plant ramps up for full production in the spring.

“We’re busting at the seams with the work that we already have,” said Tupelo plant manager Peter Rinaldi in reference to the 25,000 square feet of manufacturing space in the current 30,000-square-foot facility. “We’re looking forward to continued growth of this facility and we’re excited about being here.”

Several factors entered into the company’s decision to locate a facility in the Tupelo-Lee County area.
First, Rinaldi said that the labor pool appeared large enough to support a company like General Atomics, which needs workers who are skilled in the fabrication and assembly of large manufacturing components. Second, Rinaldi said that the company was impressed with availability of local and state training programs and third, the climate of cooperation among local, state and national leaders was a plus.

Currently, seven individuals are at the Tupelo plant, and Rinaldi said that figure should increase to 25 by the spring. Two projects administered and awarded by the Naval Air Systems Command were recently won by General Atomics and will occupy the current manufacturing space at the Tupelo facility. The company is also a candidate for several other projects that could increase manufacturing needs at the Tupelo facility, and adjacent land has already been prepared for potential expansion.

Rinaldi said that he is looking forward to interacting with area community colleges, which he said enjoy a strong relationship with area manufacturers. Because his company recognizes the importance of education, Rinaldi said that he has visited area schools in Lee County, talking with teachers, administrators and students about “what makes a successful individual in the high-tech manufacturing sector.”

“We’re interested in growing this facility beyond 25 people,” Rinaldi said. “If everything goes the way we hope it will, there’s the potential to double the amount of manufacturing space.”

General Atomics’ headquarters is located in San Diego.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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