Rolls-Royce's Pascagoula foundry will close, idling 24 workers

Downsizing at Pascagoula plant will take place over next 18 months

klnelson@sunherald.comJune 26, 2014 

PASCAGOULA -- Rolls-Royce North America is closing the foundry at its Pascagoula plant on Industrial Road and expects to lose 24 of the 47 employees it has there.

The plant casts and hones huge ship propellers.

The downsizing in the casting or foundry side will take place over the next 18 months, company officials said. Plans to reduce as many of the jobs as possible by attrition to avoid a large layoff, officials said.

"There is simply not the quantity of Naval contracts coming through the facility any more," said Jackson County Economic Development Foundation Director George Freeland. "The business is down.

"The upside is that they still have the machine aspect of the business, the Machining Center of Excellence. They won't pour the castings for propellers there anymore, but they will bring them in and machine them there."

Joel P. Reuter with Rolls-Royce North America called the move a restructuring in response to market conditions.

"Today we had conversations with our employees," he said. "As customer orders wind down, we will be phasing out 24 employees."

They will be mostly skilled workers, not management.

The Pascagoula plant has been in business for decades and in the early 2000s added the high-end machining operations.

Reuter said plant officials informed the county and the Mississippi Development Authority.

He also said the move would not influence the company's operations at Stennis Space Center.

"That is an Aero engine-test site," he said. "We actually expanded that business and added a second test facility last year."

The difference is aerospace vs. marine business, he said.

The Rolls-Royce Pascagoula plant is the only privately owned foundry in the U.S. capable of casting and finishing large fixed-pitch propellers to Navy quality standards, Reuter said. The company has foundries in Canada and Spain, county officials said, and would bring the products of those to Pascagoula for the machining work.

The Pascagoula foundry manufactured the propellers for all Navy ships, from aircraft carriers to submarines.

The propellers for today's aircraft carriers are 26 feet in diameter and made of a nickel-aluminum-manganese-bronze material.

The foundry also has the capability to manufacture stainless-steel propellers, waterjets and impellers.

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