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GE Aviation expands West Jefferson facility, underlines necessity for EXIM Bank reauthorization

July 09, 2015

WEST JEFFERSON, NC -- GE Aviation, a global leader in jet engine and aircraft system production, hosted a grand opening ceremony today at the site of its machining factory in West Jefferson, N.C.

The grand opening comes amidst a crucial effort to encourage Congress to reauthorize the Export Import Bank of the United States, commonly referred to as the EXIM Bank. The Bank’s authorization expired June 30. Congress’s most likely opportunity to renew the authorization is to connect it to a highway bill it is working to pass this month.

The EXIM Bank helps the U.S. export its products by providing a variety of loans, guarantees and insurance products. The Bank fills a gap in the finance market, since it only provides support to exporters when private alternatives aren't available. By minimizing the risks involved in selling products abroad, the Bank has enabled countless small business to grow more quickly, all at no cost to the American taxpayers. In fact, the Bank earned $2 billion in the past five years. The EXIM Bank has also supported more than 1.5 billion American jobs since 2007 and facilitated more than $37 billion in exports last year.

GE Aviation’s Randy Hobbs, general manager of Rotating Parts & Compressor Airfoils, and Tim Tucker, West Jefferson plant manager, were joined by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, Secretary of Commerce John E. Skvarla, III, Assistant Secretary for Rural Development Dr. Pat Mitchell and officials from the Town of West Jefferson and Ashe County to commemorate the groundbreaking.

“The expansion here in West Jefferson represents GE Aviation’s unprecedented supply chain growth,” stated Randy Hobbs, head of GE Aviation's Rotating Parts Value Stream. “We’re investing more and more every year in order to deliver on the more than 14,000 commercial engines in our backlog.”

For that trajectory to continue, Hobbs emphasized Congress must reauthorize the EXIM Bank. “GE exports to every region of the world, making exports critical to GE business,” said Hobbs. “Approximately 58 percent of GE Aviation’s $24 billion annual revenue comes from exports of its U.S.-made products and services.”

“This investment is a testament to GE’s commitment to North Carolina,” commented Gov. McCrory. “North Carolina continues to be ‘First in Flight,’ leading the way in aerospace innovation and production.” Gov. McCrory also stressed the importance of reauthorizing the EXIM Bank. GE Aviation’s West Jefferson, Asheville, Durham and Wilmington facilities, along with more than 200 other North Carolina businesses, rely on EXIM Bank support to finance their export business to the tune of $3 billion since 2007. “I urge Congress to act on a stable, long-term reauthorization of the EXIM Bank to ensure the United States' global competitiveness and save jobs," he said.

GE Aviation’s $65 million investment in the new 80,000-square-foot expansion will allow for increased capacity as the shop assumes additional machining work. The increase in volume is driven largely by orders for the new LEAP jet engine of CFM International, a 50/50 joint company of GE and Snecma (Safran) of France. To date, CFM has logged total orders and commitments with airlines for more than 9,550 LEAP engines, which enters service in 2016. It will power the new Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (China) C919 aircraft for airlines worldwide.

GE has hired 45 additional employees for the expanded facility so far and plans to hire 60 more over the next couple of years, pushing the plant’s total workforce to more than 285. These employees do both rough and finished machining of components for the core of the engine—disks, spools and shafts.

“The West Jefferson team and surrounding community will play a vital role in the next-generation of aircraft engines,” stated Tim Tucker, plant leader at West Jefferson. “We’re ready for that challenge and proud to be a part of it.”

"We are grateful GE Aviation chose its West Jefferson facility for this expansion," said Dr. Pat Mitchell, North Carolina's Assistant Secretary for Rural Economic Development. As a former county manager and director of economic development for Ashe County, Mitchell pointed out “this development demonstrates the long-term commitment to jobs and economic growth in West Jefferson, Ashe County and North Carolina, where nothing compares to our well-trained workforce."

The new facility is part of a larger commitment by GE Aviation to invest $195 million across its North Carolina operations through 2017. GE Aviation employs more than 1,500 people in North Carolina at sites in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington and Asheville. The West Jefferson expansion, combined with the new facility in Asheville and plant and equipment upgrades at existing sites across North Carolina, will account for more than 240 additional GE jobs in North Carolina by 2017.

To help with the new workload, GE has partnered with Wilkes Community College. The training program at the Tigra facility allows current and prospective employees to train in a hands-on environment with state-of-the-art machinery.

In addition to components for the LEAP engine, the West Jefferson facility will continue machining components for the GEnx, GE90, GP7200, CF6, CFM56 and CF34 jet engines.

GE Aviation has the largest and fastest-growing installed base of jet engines in commercial aviation and a global services network to support them. GE Aviation employs approximately 40,000 people and operates more than 80 facilities around the world.

GE Aviation is an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), and a world-leading provider of jet engines, components, avionics, digital and integrated systems for commercial and military aircraft.