- Associated Press - Thursday, September 24, 2015

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - Aeronautics giant Boeing, which now employs about 7,500 in South Carolina, celebrated another expansion in the state on Thursday with the grand opening of its new research and technology center a few miles from the massive plant where it assembles the 787 Dreamliner.

Several hundred workers, top company officials and local leaders turned out as two robots stretched a blue ribbon across a stage which was then cut by dignitaries.

Engineers at the 100,000-square-foot center work on everything from electromagnetics and advanced aircraft production to chemical technology. Their work is used not only for the company’s commercial airliners but in defense and aerospace applications.

The company is not saying specifically how many engineers are working at the facility but Beverly Wyse, the general manager for Boeing South Carolina, said the company now employs 7,500 people in South Carolina.

The new research and technology center is the fifth that Boeing operates in the United States and one of 11 it runs worldwide.

Lane Ballard, a Boeing vice president who heads the new research facility said that workers moved into the first part of the leased space late last year and the full center was up and running in July.

Wyse said the engineers will contribute to everything Boeing does.

“It could be a defense project. It could be a commercial project,” she said. “A lot of what they are doing is figuring out what might be the next generation technology we will apply to our products.”

She said the engineers are always canvassing other industries to see what could be applied in aeronautics as well as looking at technologies that the company already uses in one area to see how it might be applied elsewhere.

“Then they are always helping us deal with the production issues,” she said. “They are looking always to help us with productivity, safety and cost.”

“As our customer base continues to grow we want to get the best talent and have people and technology development throughout the world,” Ballard said. “We’re a global company.”

Wyse said locating the new research center and technology center in the state again shows the company’s commitment to South Carolina.

Two years ago, Boeing announced it was investing $1 billion in South Carolina and would be creating 2,000 new jobs by 2021.

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