More jobs for Mississippi as Rolls-Royce invests millions to build massive propellers for US Navy

Published 5:18 am Sunday, October 9, 2022

A standing ovation marked the grand opening of a multi-million dollar facility on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast to build propellers for the U.S. Navy.

The Rolls-Royce facility, known as the Center of Excellence 2 in Pascagoula, has the latest high-tech equipment to build nuclear submarine propellers and other equipment for the military. Eighty members of the company’s “growing workforce” paraded during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, The Sun Herald reported.

“We’re the only private company that can manufacture these U.S. Navy’s largest propellers that weigh as much as a 737 (airplane) and are machined to the exacting standards that are the equivalent to a fine Swiss watch,” said Tom Bell, president of Rolls-Royce Defense and chairman and CEO of Rolls-Royce North America.

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Bell said employment opportunities are available and they’re looking to hire. Information about jobs and apprenticeship opportunities are available on the company’s website.

“We’ve got work,” Bell said — about three times the amount of work as the facility had just a few years ago.

Rear Admiral Jonathan Rucker said that 10 years ago the Navy was building about 8,000 tons of submarines a year. “We’re on our way to building over 40,000 tons a year when we get to 2026,” he said. “That’s the work that’s coming.”

Last year Rolls-Royce reached agreement with Fincantieri Marinette Marine to design and manufacture up to 40 fixed-pitch propellers for the U.S. Navy’s Constellation-class (FFG-62) guided missile frigate program. Rear Admiral David Goggins said Rolls-Royce is one of 5,000 key vendors across the country supplying material to build the Virginia class submarines in Newport News, Virginia.

Earlier this year Rolls-Royce partnered with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to create an apprenticeship program to build a skilled workforce. Apprenticeships are offered in the foundry and for CNC machinist, said Mary Martha Henson, deputy director of the Jackson County Economic Development Foundation.

The program is registered with the U.S. Department of Labor, said Rucker who is also the program’s executive officer for attack submarines.

“Today is just yet another example of companies not only all over the country, but all over the world recognizing the quality of our workforce and the quality of life that their employees have in Mississippi,” said Gov. Tate Reeves.

He said the apprenticeship program is very important to South Mississippi.

“That gives more kids here on the Gulf Coast the opportunity to understand the kind of jobs that are available to them,” he said. “If you talk to the folks at this company or any other company, the biggest challenge we have around the country right now is workforce and getting people that have the skills to do these high quality jobs.”

Stephen Moffett of Pascagoula was the first to sign up to become an apprentice. He found the program while searching an internet job website, he said. Since spring, he goes to school in the morning and reports for work at Rolls-Royce in the afternoon.

“It’s an opportunity,” he said.

The apprenticeship pays his tuition, he said, and he gets a paycheck for his work.

Construction of the 26,000 square foot building started at the height of the coronavirus pandemic in August 2020, continued through supply chain issues and was completed on time, said Dan Rediger, Rolls-Royce North America head of naval operations.