STENNIS SPACE CENTER — Rolls-Royce and state officials cut the ribbon Wednesday on the second jet engine test stand the company has built at this Hancock County facility. The jet engines don’t make as much noise as the rocket engines NASA has tested here in the past, shaking buildings and rattling windows at times, but the $50 million corporate investment and 35 new jobs will nonetheless be felt in the surrounding communities.
Local and state economic development officials attended the ceremony but Rolls-Royce’s NASA colleagues couldn’t join them because of the government shutdown. Rolls-Royce officials said the effects of the shutdown on their operations at Stennis were “minimal.”
Jim Guyette, chairman, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said early in his career he never thought the company would have operations in the Magnolia State or on a NASA site. He pointed to Rolls-Royce’s other operations in Mississippi and recalled the company’s efforts to assist Coast employees after Hurricane Katrina.
Rolls-Royce North America, headquartered in Reston, Va., opened its first jet engine testing facility at Stennis in 2007 at a cost of $42 million. Current employment at Stennis is nearly 40. The company also operates the Rolls-Royce Marine Propeller and Waterjet Foundry in Pascagoula where workers manufacture, test and repair propellers for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard. In Meridian, Rolls-Royce operates a defense regional field office at the Naval Air Station in Meridian.
The jet engine facility performs tests on the most advanced Rolls-Royce civil aircraft engines, including the Trent 1000, which powers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the Trent XWB for the Airbus 350XWB.
“We are not talking about the past but … more importantly the future,” Guyette said.
He praised the local employees and said Americans can compete when they have the proper infrastructure, education and other necessary assets. “We can make things happen,” he said. Roll-Royce has invested more than $1 billion in the last decade, he said. “Rolls-Royce is investing in America because of our collective innovation, competitiveness and cooperative spirit, and we find the state of Mississippi is the perfect location to expand our operations.”
He said the engine testing connects Hancock County with the global economy. “This equipment flies all over the world,” he said of the jet engines. “Parts are sourced all over the world.”
Brent Christensen, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said the new facility “strengthens our position in the global marketplace.” MDA assisted with infrastructure improvements, construction and workforce training. Hancock County also provided assistance for the project.
“Rolls-Royce selected the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County as the site of its first engine test stand located outside the United Kingdom, and I am proud the company has again looked to Mississippi as a prime location for the testing of their highly sophisticated jet engines.”
The day’s ceremony included the unveiling of a Trent 1000 jet engine donated to the nearby Infinity Science Center to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.