Rolls-Royce factory construction nearing completion in Prince George

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Print this page by Robert Powell

One year after its groundbreaking, Rolls-Royce first jet-engine components factory at its 1,000-acre Crosspointe campus in Prince George County is 95 percent complete. Despite hurdles erected by Mother Nature, the plant should be finished by the end of the year. Heavy rains last fall and unusually deep snows last winter kept contractors from pouring the building’s foundation until February.

The 160 to 170 construction workers on the site have made up for the lost time. Not only is the building up, the parking lot has been paved and yesterday workers were seen planting trees. Production equipment will arrive in December.

The $170 million factory will begin producing engine discs early next year. They are critical components of turbofan engines that will be used in wide-body jets such as the Boeing 787, Airbus A380 and Airbus A350 WWB.

The 180,000-square-foot building will include 140,000 square feet of manufacturing space and will employ 140 workers when it reaches full production.

Plans call for a second factory, producing another component called “blisks,” or bladed discs, to be adjacent to the first plant. It also will employ 140 people.

Eventually, Rolls-Royce expects to invest $500 million and have three factories at Crosspointe with 500 to 600 workers. The purpose of the third factory has not yet been determined

The first wave of employees for the first factory, about two dozen production and maintenance workers, are undergoing intensive training at a similar Rolls-Royce plant in England.

The factory will include 11 skylights spanning the width of the building to provide defused natural light for the factory floor. To conserve energy, “daylight-harvesting” sensors will cut off electric lights when they are not needed. The factory also has a system to collect and use rainwater.

In a meeting with Virginia Business editors, Tom Loehr, executive vice president-Crosspointe, noted that Rolls-Royce originally planned to build engines for corporate jets in Prince George.

But, he said, the economy has changed since those plans were announced in 2007. Corporate jet sales fell after congressmen chastised American auto executives for flying to Washington on company planes to plead for bailouts.

Rolls-Royce’s extensive book of business, which has tripled in the past five years, allowed it to redesign the factory to increase the company’s production capacity for discs. “We started all over,” Loehr said. “We powered through that turbulence to honor our commitment.”

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