Northrop Grumman Corp. may be poised to at least double its previously announced expansion in Melbourne, a move that could mean $500 million in capital investment and a total of 1,800 jobs in aircraft design work, according to published reports Wednesday.
The Falls Church, Va.-based defense contractor plans to add the high-paying jobs – average annual salary $100,000 – over the next four years at its operations adjacent to the Melbourne International Airport, according to Florida Today.
Dubbed Project Magellan, the closely guarded secret initiative was regarded as one of the nation's largest economic development initiatives in the past five years, Brevard County officials told the newspaper. It was not clear, however, whether the Magellan project represents an entirely new expansion or includes one that was announced last year.
Details were initially to be disclosed Wednesday by Gov. Rick Scott, but that was later postponed. Neither the Governor's Office nor Northrop Grumman would comment.
Northrop originally announced an expansion plan for Melbourne more than a year ago as part of a consolidation involving its aerospace division.
The company designated Melbourne as a center of excellence for manned aircraft design – one of several operational centers, including sites in California and New York, where various contracts and jobs would be concentrated.
Boosted by an estimated $19 million in state and local tax-break incentives – potentially the biggest incentive deal to date under Scott – Northrop planned to bring 920 jobs to Melbourne – many of them from a unit in Bethpage, N.Y. It would also build a new aircraft-design facility next to its electronics operation at the Melbourne airport.
In the same consolidation, Northrop also said it would bring 80 new jobs to its St. Augustine factory - one of its centers of excellence for aircraft integration work.
At the time of last year's announcement, Northrop employed 1,200 at its Melbourne unit, which builds the U.S. military's Joint STARS advanced battlefield radar plane and other airborne electronic systems.
The company broke ground on its new 200,000-square-foot Melbourne facility in September 2013 and projected it would be complete before the end of 2014.
Brevard County officials lauded Northrop's expansion in Melbourne – a move that came only a few years after Brevard's economy was rocked by NASA's retirement of the space shuttle program. More than 9,000 jobs were eliminated in the Cape Canaveral area and across the county.
Its expansion also helps offset some of the hundreds of jobs that Northrop itself has eliminated in Central Florida in recent years, including more than 625 at its Apopka laser systems unit, amid the pullback in war operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With annual revenues of $25 billion and profit of $2 billion, Northrop Grumman employs about 65,000 worldwide, including more than 3,000 in Florida. As such, it is one of the Sunshine State's largest defense contractors.
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