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SHANNON • For the 11th time since opening in 2005 – and the fourth time since 2013 – defense contractor General Atomics is expanding its sprawling facility at the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South.

The company’s Electromagnetic Systems division in Shannon is adding 75 jobs through a $50 million project to accommodate the addition of an unspecified new product line.

The expansion was announced during the 2019 International Homeland Defense and Security Summit Gov. Phil Bryant is hosting in Biloxi.

“General Atomics’ continued investment in Lee County and creation of so many jobs over the years speaks to the fact that we have a top-notch manufacturing workforce,” Bryant said in a press release. “These employees have the skills to ensure industry-leading defense companies like General Atomics deliver some of the most technologically advanced products to the men and women of the U.S. military who fight every day to protect our country and defend our freedom.”

The expansion allows the company to increase “some of its most advanced defense manufacturing operations in the U.S.”

A 100,000-square-foot facility will be added to General Atomics’ existing 552,000-square-foot production space in Shannon. The company said new employees will be working in “state-of-the-art advanced CNC machining and electronic assembly centers to manufacture components, products and systems that meet the most exacting specifications and conform to the highest quality and compliance standards.”

The company’s last expansion was announced last year, a $20-million investment that added 48 jobs, as well as a 128,000-square-foot addition.

“We are a proud member of the community and look forward to expanding operations to provide game-changing technologies that will support our warfighters well into the future,” said Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems. “This new manufacturing space and growth in workforce allows us to continue advancing design innovations from concept to prototype to full-scale production, while maintaining the highest quality, compliance and safety standards throughout the manufacturing process.”

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When General Atomics first opened in Shannon, its main mission was to help design and build its Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, which replaces the steam-powered launching system once used in U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. The newest carrier to the fleet, the $13 billion U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, is equipped with EMALS, as well as the arresting gear made by General Atomics.

That work will continue, as three more carriers will be built. It takes about seven years to build each system.

The company has delved into other manufacturing here as well. For example, General Atomics’ Aeronautical Systems arm builds the Predator and Grey Eagle unmanned drones, which are used extensively worldwide. Components for the drones, and other company products, are made in Shannon.

The facility built last year is used for fabricating and filled with state-of-the-art equipment to manufacture lightweight, compact, powerful laser systems.

Mississippi Development Authority spokeswoman Tammy Craft said General Atomics will get a $1 million state grant to aid in building renovations and $500,000 for workforce training for its latest expansion. Lee County is expected to grant property tax breaks worth $2.4 million over 10 years.

The company currently has more than 300 workers in Shannon, and new workers are expected to make $41,600 a year, on average.

“General Atomics is one of the most innovative companies in the world, and they have found success in building their most advanced and complex products right here in Lee County,” said Lee County Board of Supervisors President Tony Roper. “We are honored and excited about this expansion – it shows that General Atomics continues to place trust in both our people and our partnerships.” Twitter: @dennisseid

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