Unmanned Aviation Aircraft Plant Opens In Moss Point

With the cut of a ribbon, the newest industry on the coast opened its doors.

"Here in these walls behind us, workers will soon begin building the world's most advanced unmanned aircraft," Northrop Grumman CEO Dr. Ron Sugar says.

One of their products is the Fire Scout.

"These are helicopters that can be flown remotely. They basically use a computer to fly them. They can see things at great distances, they can hover for hours and hours," Sugar says.

Gathering information isn't all it can do. These unmanned helicopters can fight as well.

"It's great that the nation is using technology to put our people less at risk, while not reducing our commitment to freedom," Governor Haley Barbour says.

"They will be critical to the defense of our nation," U.S. Senator Trent Lott says.

Economic developers say the new facility will be critical to the rebuilding of the coast too. First, it's adding new high-tech jobs to the area.

"Thirty individuals work here right now. Plans are to take that level to 60 by the end of the year, and up to 250 within a 24 month period," Jackson County Economic Development Authority Director George Freeland says.

The Unmanned Aircraft Center is also the beginning of what will be the aerospace corridor along Interstate 10.

"This is symbolic of what's happening in Mississippi. Leland Speed can tell you we are hearing from blue chip companies all over America that are asking about Mississippi," Lott adds.

Northrop Grumman chose Jackson County to be the home of its high-tech aviation plant.

"The workforce, while it has not been engaged in the construction of high-technology aircraft, they've been doing high-technology ships for many years," Sugar says.

Now that it's here, economic developers expect its presence to attract more like minded companies to the coast.

The plant has already produced seven Fire Scouts. Officials hope to manufacture another 300 to 400 within the next two years.