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Aurora welcomes third expansion in seven years

Jan 7, 2013

C.J. LeMaster

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WTVA) -- Within a new 30,000-square foot addition to Aurora Flight Sciences, officials say, lies the future of modern manufacturing in Mississippi.

"We are growing by leaps and bounds in Mississippi, particularly in high-tech industry like aerospace," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "We made a $17 million investment on this plant, but if you look at the return on investment, this type of aerospace industry is the industry of the future."

Officials at Aurora Flight Sciences said three expansions in seven years is a good problem to have. In fact, they're even planning for additional expansions--if growth continues--within the next two years.

Aurora Flight Sciences designs and builds aerospace vehicles used in the commercial and military sector.

CEO John Langford said the expansion is essentially Aurora's first big step into automated equipment that will create high-precision, high-volume manufacturing. 

Newly-manufactured parts can be hardened and baked in what's essentially a state-of-the-art pressure cooker.

Finally, the finished product is quality tested through a large, custom-built ultrasound machine.

"We're the only company that we know of in the world less than a billion dollars in scale that has a piece of equipment like this," Langford said.

One of the company's biggest clients is Sikorsky, primarily known for manufacturing helicopters.

And one of that company's research directors made a trip all the way from Connecticut because he says he believes in the manufacturing talent represented here.

"Mississippi is a prime example of what can be done when you put your attention towards developing technology in that particular area," S-97 Raider Program Director Doug Shidler said. "It really starts with the companies as well as getting into the high schools, junior highs and getting the kids involved in science and technology so you can build that industry in the local area."

250 jobs will be created from the expansion, carrying with them an average annual salary of $45,000.

The new facility should be operational sometime within the next two months.

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