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High-tech partnership may lead to 400 new jobs in aerospace venture

Union Leader Correspondent

March 31. 2014 7:34PM
Employees at a new manufacturing facility in Rochester inspect an advanced composite made from 11 miles of carbon fibers bonded with resin. The Rochester plant, opened Monday. COURTESY (COURTESY)

On Monday, Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites officially opened their new 300,000-square-foot facility in Rochester. While production is already underway, the companies intend to hire up to 400 new employees by 2020 to produce advanced composite parts of aircraft engines. COURTESY

ROCHESTER — A partnership between two international companies has created the opportunity for the Seacoast to emerge as a leader in the aerospace industry.

About 200 people attended the grand opening ceremonies for the new 300,000- square-foot plant — a joint effort of Safran Aerospace Composites (SAC), a high-technology group with businesses in aerospace, defense and security, and Albany Engineered Composites (AEC) — Monday at Granite State Business Park.

Mayor T.J. Jean, who greeted participants in French, said this is an opportunity that will benefit the entire region.

"We celebrate the power of partnerships," Jean said, adding this is the result of local, state and federal officials working with business leaders for the benefit of all.

"I've been waiting for this day to come for a long time," Jean said.

Gov. Maggie Hassan said the project will help the Seacoast and the state emerge as a leader in the aerospace industry.

"It's bringing high-tech jobs to the Granite State," Hassan said.

Her sentiment was echoed by U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who all expressed excitement about the opportunities for residents in strong companies serving a global market.

"These are advanced manufacturing jobs," Ayotte said, adding this helps local residents and the economy as a whole, as the technology helps save fuel.

Since production began in September, the facility has already finished more than 600 advanced composite blades, which help power the LEAP-X, a new generation of aircraft engines, according to Michael Rigalle, vice president and general manager of SAC in Rochester.

Rigalle said the plant currently produces five blades a day and 1,400 annually, but the companies will gradually increase operations to produce one every 25 minutes.

In order to meet the demand, the two companies partnered with Great Bay Community College (GBCC), which is based in Portsmouth, and created an advanced composites manufacturing course just a few miles away along Rt. 125.

Kerri Uyeno, 40, of New Durham, one of the Great Bay graduates to be hired at the facility, said she's excited to work as a bonding operator with Safran.

"It was something new and upcoming, something I could advance in," Uyeno said, adding this opportunity provides her with a career, rather than a mere job.

"I love coming to work," Uyeno said, as she applied adhesive to bond titanium to the advanced composite part at the facility Monday.

Francois Delattre, ambassador of the French Republic, said this is the latest example of the long-standing relationship between France and the United States, especially in New Hampshire.

"These two companies are working together to be on the winning side of globalization," Delattre said.

Joseph Morone, president and CEO of Albany International Corp., said the proprietary technology used at the facility and its sister plant in France will be used in "nearly half of commercial engines built in the next decade."

As a result, Morone said the two companies plan to expand their local workforce by about 400 employees by 2020 to keep up with the demand to make 30,000 aircraft engine blades annually.

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