Stennis hopes to lure more businesses to old ammo plant

HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Hancock County's Stennis Space Center now has a $480 million asset that Stennis officials hope will lead to more business and more jobs. It's the old Army ammo plant. The Army officially transferred the federal property to NASA's control Wednesday.

When the plant was mothballed in 1993, more than 1200 people lost their jobs. Since then, a contractor has leased parts of the plant to other businesses. Now, NASA will take over that challenge.

"With the transfer of 1.6 million square feet of facility space, Stennis has set the stage for years of expansion," NASA's Deputy Administrator Lori Garver said.

Expansion and jobs could come from current tenants of the old ammo plant, like Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne. The company is working to develop the J-2X engine to power NASA's next generation of human space flight.

"This particular facility is especially important to us in that it is the center of gravity for all of Pratt & Whitney's Rocketdyne's large engine assembly and test operations," said company Vice-President Steve Bouley. "We started with about 86,000 square feet of floor space, and we've now expanded that to nearly 140,000 today."

Pratt and Whitney is one of 12 companies and government agencies utilizing the site. The Department of Homeland Security moved there in 2005.

"It needed a world class data center. Enter the John C. Space Center and the Mississippi Army Ammunitions Plant," explained Mike Brown with the Department Of Homeland Security. "The plant was transformed from no tech to high tech, becoming the national center for critical information processing and storage."

Taking control of the Army ammo plant property increases Stennis's space by 33 percent. And with the location, transportation and technology base, it's another step toward making this part of Hancock County a hi-tech business mecca.

"The people who are looking at making business decisions really don't have to look very hard into that case to realize what a great deal they would have at Stennis Space Center," said Patrick Scheuermann, Director of Stennis Space Center.

Scheuermann told WLOX News that word is starting to get out nationally about the many assets available at Stennis. And that, he says, is starting to pique the interested of large aero-space companies.

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