Jones met with GE Aviation representatives before touring the plant’s production facilities, which produce parts for military and commercial jet engines.
The importance of exports to GE Aviation in supplying jet engines all around the world was emphasized today during a tour of the company’s Wilmington facility by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones.
The Republican congressman, whose coastal District 3 includes portions of Pender and New Hanover counties, met with company representatives and toured the Castle Hayne-area plant, where rotating parts for military and commercial jet engines are produced for assembly off-site.
Jones last year visited the GE Hitachi nuclear facility and world headquarters, likewise located in the Castle Hayne complex. His tour of the GE Aviation facility comes as Congress is considering potential reforms to the Export-Import Bank of the United States, the country’s official export credit agency.
Called the Ex-Im Bank, the agency provides export financing that “fill gaps in the trade finance market,” according to a description on its website, “to ensure that U.S. businesses get what they need to sell abroad and be competitive in international markets.” But the agency has drawn scrutiny from some conservative legislators who describe its services as a form of corporate welfare.
Friday’s tour was intended in part to emphasize the importance of exports to GE Aviation, which supplies the majority of its engines overseas. Increased demand in the Middle East and Latin America have contributed to growth in the company’s services, which currently amount to $20 billion in annual revenue with a backlog of more than $100 billion through the year 2020.
In providing Jones with an overview, company representatives noted 90 percent of gas and steam turbines made domestically are exported. “We’re about making it here and selling it there,” Jones was told. “That’s where the marketplace is, and we’ve got to be able to be competitive in that global marketplace.”
GE Aviation is also expanding its manufacturing operations in North Carolina, including the Castle Hayne plant and facilities in Durham, West Jefferson and Asheville—part of an investment the company announced last year that was expected to produce 242 jobs statewide over a five-year period.
Related story: GE expansion adds jobs to local plant
That investment was spurred in part by local incentives from New Hanover County, which awarded $875,000 to GE Aviation—contingent on investments in the Castle Hayne facility of at least $63 million and the creation of at least 35 jobs.
Wilmington Plant Leader Jason Swinny said the Castle Hayne facility has grown by about 100 jobs in the past two to three years. He said the plant currently has more than 600 employees and more than 100 contractors working on-site.
In 2014 alone, Swinny said, investment in the facility has totaled $14 million, with equipment added to aid in the production of the 55 different components that are shipped out of the facility. The majority of those parts are assembled at the company’s facility in Durham, Swinny said.
“The good news for Wilmington is that the commercial business is growing,” added Kelly Walsh, a company spokeswoman. With 33,000 engines installed today, the company projects that number will increase to 44,000 in 2020.
“The current stat is, about every two seconds, an aircraft powered by a GE engine takes off somewhere around the world,” Walsh said. “So, a lot of engines powering the world’s fleet.”
Walsh added such numbers are good news for airlines, manufacturers and suppliers, some of which were represented during Jones’ visit. In the Wilmington area, those suppliers include Cincinatti Thermal Spray, which provides coatings to protect parts from wear and thermal exposure; Wilmington National Peening, which provides shot peening to finish metal parts; and Southern Industrial, which provides industrial construction and plant maintenance services.
Inside the plant, Jones was shown some of the parts the company produces, including those for the “GEnx” engine, described as the company’s fastest selling high-thrust engine, used in Boeing 747 airliners and the 787 Dreamliner.
During the tour, Jones said he was delighted to tour the facility, “because it not only means so much to eastern North Carolina, but it means so much to our country that we have a strong economy. And they participate in helping to make a strong economy.”
Regarding support for exports, Jones told reporters on the tour: “The world we live in is a big world. And you can look at the stock market—if it went down 15 years ago, you wouldn’t have your stockbroker telling you to invest in overseas investments. Then you come back and look at GE—it’s a company that provides services and manufacturing to the whole world.
“In the world today, you’ve got to be able to participate in some form or another to be successful,” he said.
“I’m enthralled by what I’m seeing here today, and the technical work and the production that’s being done is very, very impressive,” Jones said. “For me to come down here today is to be reminded of all the good that’s being done here for the citizens of Pender and New Hanover and the surrounding counties, with the fact that we have a corporate success story right here in our backyard.”
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