President Barack Obama will be coming to the Rolls-Royce
aircraft engine plant in Prince George next week to talk about the economy.
The trip, announced on Prince George County's Twitter feed, is scheduled for Friday -- three days after the Republican presidential primary in Virginia.
In 2008, Obama won Virginia with 53 percent of the vote, the first Democrat to win a presidential election in the Old Dominion since 1964. This year will likely be another tough election and the economy will be the key issue.
In January, Obama said he would propose tax incentives for companies to bring home manufacturing jobs they had moved overseas, and curtail tax breaks for those that keep relocating jobs abroad. Flanked by executives from the aerospace, chemical and furniture industries -- all of whom are building or expanding factories in the United States -- Obama declared that the nation was beginning to see the reversal of a long-term trend toward outsourcing.
One of the executives at the meeting, James M. Guyette of Rolls-Royce North America, said his company was making investments in Indiana, where it builds aircraft engines, and in Prince George, where it opened an advanced manufacturing and research campus that will eventually employ 500 people. Guyette said Rolls-Royce was not moving operations back to the United States. But he said it was pouring money into U.S. operations, such as a factory in Indianapolis that once had the company's highest labor costs and lowest productivity. Negotiations with the United Auto Workers union had cut those costs, he said, and made the factory competitive again. "Everyone could see where this road was going to end, if we didn't do it differently," he said.
The Rolls-Royce aircraft parts manufacturing center in Prince George wrapped up construction of its first phase in late 2010.
The 180,000-square-foot plant was expected to employ about 140 people who will manufacture discs and associated parts for use in commercial aircraft engines, including those for the much-anticipated Boeing 787 "Dreamliner," as well as the new Airbus A350 and the "superjumbo" A380, the world's largest commercial airliner.
A second 130,000-square-foot facility that will manufacture "blisks" -- combined blades and discs for use in high-performance engines such as those used on fighter jets.
A public-private research center is also taking shape alongside the Rolls-Royce Crosspointe aircraft engine factory. The Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing recently began work on a $12.9 million, 60,000-square-foot facility.
CCAM is a research-based collaboration among the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Virginia State University and manufacturing companies from around the world, including Rolls-Royce.
Experts from the member companies will join with faculty and students from the universities to perform research in surface engineering and manufacturing systems, with an emphasis on developing technologies that can be brought quickly to use in factory production.
This is not Obama's first stop in the Tri-City area.
Obama spoke to firefighters and local officials at a Chesterfield County firehouse Oct. 19, stressing the importance of funding public safety jobs.
In October 2010, Obama visited the Southampton Recreation Association in south Richmond. And before he became president, Obama spoke at the Chester campus of John Tyler Community College and visited Longstreet's Deli in Petersburg in August 2008.
- The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.
(c)2012 The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.)
Visit The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.) at www.progress-index.com
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