U.Va. Helps Break Ground on New Aerospace Facility, a Partnership With Rolls-Royce

October 20, 2009 — Crosspointe, home to a unique, higher education partnership founded by the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, the commonwealth of Virginia, Rolls-Royce Plc and others, has begun construction in Prince George County.

About 200 people attended the groundbreaking on Monday. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called the start of construction good news in challenging economic times, according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

"This investment means a lot of things," Kaine said. "For those who wonder about whether manufacturing in the United States is dead or being off-shored, this is a strong investment on the ground to say, 'No, manufacturing is not only alive, manufacturing is thriving with innovation and technology and educational partnerships.'"

Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the groundbreaking, three years in the making, is an important milestone.

"It recognizes the hard work and cooperation that have produced a mutually beneficial public/private partnership that can make Virginia a national leader in engineering education, advanced manufacturing and the aerospace industry," he said Monday.

At more than 1,000 acres, Crosspointe is the largest Rolls-Royce site by area in North America and the company's first manufacturing facility built from the ground up in the U.S.

It will house the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a partnership founded by the state, U.Va., Virginia Tech, Rolls-Royce and other partners. The vision for CCAM is to become a world-class research facility delivering improved aerospace design and manufacturing technologies.

"The Crosspointe groundbreaking marks the continuing progress of this partnership," said Barry Johnson, senior associate dean for research at the U.Va. School of Engineering and Applied Science. "By working with Rolls-Royce, Virginia Tech and the commonwealth, and incorporating our strengths in aerospace engineering, we will be able to help advance aerospace propulsion systems and manufacturing research, create more real-world educational opportunities for our students and establish a pipeline of engineering leaders who can carry out the missions of these centers."

Sandridge said that Rolls-Royce intends to donate land to the University of Virginia Foundation that will be designated as the CCAM site.

He explained that the foundation will be responsible for the design, development and construction of the site and the CCAM facility. Upon completion of construction, the foundation will own and operate the facility on behalf of CCAM.

In addition, the Commonwealth Center for Aerospace Propulsion Systems (CCAPS), a virtual research and technology center established by the same partners, will use existing labs at U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science and Virginia Tech's College of Engineering to foster collaborative aerospace research while creating new educational opportunities for students at both schools.

Students and faculty will address the latest aerospace propulsion system research questions and explore breakthrough concepts for creating more efficient and effective jet-engine propulsion systems.

Rolls-Royce, a British company with its North American headquarters in Reston, Va., initially is planning to invest $170 million and hire 140 people at the plant. The investment and hiring eventually could grow to $500 million and 500 jobs. So far, about 60 acres have been cleared at the site, and the company said it now has about 60 employees in Virginia working on the project.

The factory is expected to be up and running by early 2011, company officials said.

"Rolls-Royce is investing in America," James M. Guyette, president and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America, said Monday. "Crosspointe will be a flagship operation for Rolls-Royce, and the significant investment we are making here will enhance our competitiveness in global markets and position us for future growth.

"We're delighted to be bringing so many good, high-tech and advanced manufacturing jobs to the region and look forward to building on our presence in and partnership with Virginia," Guyette said.

He added that the project would not have been possible without the support of U.Va., Virginia Tech, Prince George County and the state. Funding will come from the state, which has pledged $2.5 million in matching funds for research over the next five years, and Rolls-Royce.

In September, Rolls-Royce agreed to fund 14 projects at the two universities, Sandridge said. These research projects total $1.48 million in funding, including $560,000 from Rolls-Royce, $500,000 in matching funds from the state, $170,000 in cost share from U.Va., and $250,000 in government agency funding. He said the government funding was secured "as a result of Rolls-Royce funding of the research."

Among those attending the groundbreaking were Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott, State Sen. Fred Quayle, and representatives of Sen. Jim Webb's office, Prince George County, Virginia State University, John Tyler Community College and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

At Crosspointe, Rolls-Royce will manufacture, assemble and test a range of aerospace components and products. The first building will be a 140,000-square-foot disc manufacturing facility. Discs, the part of a turbofan engine that contains the blades, are considered one of the most critical components of the engine.

Disc production at Crosspointe will begin as soon as possible once the site is operational, currently expected in early 2011.

Plans are also proceeding for the second building on site – a blisk manufacturing facility. Blisks, or bladed discs incorporating fan blades and discs into a single piece, are designed for use in the next generation of gas turbine engines.