MELBOURNE — Defense contractor Northrop Grumman, spurred on by millions in cash incentives from the state of Florida, announced plans Thursday for a major expansion of its already-existing operations in the state.
While the company did not specify exactly what it would be doing, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said the company will design and potentially build the next generation of B-2 bombers there.
"This is huge," Nelson said in a statement. "The development and assembly of America's long-range strike aircraft in Melbourne is a new beginning for the Space Coast."
The company plans to create an additional 1,800 jobs and spend up to $500 million on the expansion of its Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence along the state's Atlantic coast.
The first phase will begin with a new 220,000-square-foot office building and the addition of 300 jobs. That will be followed up with the construction of additional facilities totaling 500,000 square feet and 1,500 additional jobs. A company spokesman said the first phase should begin in the "coming months." The state's economic development agency said the jobs associated with the second phase are to be created by 2020.
Nelson said company officials told him that new design and engineering is the first phase and if the company wins a "tough competition" to build the bomber they will "go to the assembly in a much larger space with a much-expanded workforce."
In exchange, the state has agreed to give the contractor nearly $21 million in cash. Northrop Grumman also gets additional incentives including the waiver of local property taxes.
"We're extremely appreciative of the support we've received from the state of Florida and the local community in our continuing effort to drive our affordability and competitive position," said Tom Vice, a Northrop Grumman corporate vice president in a statement. "This expansion further cements our strong partnership with Florida, and will greatly benefit our employees, customers, and shareholders."
The project designated for Melbourne International Airport marks one of the largest single economic development projects approved during Rick Scott's tenure as governor. State legislators in March approved the state incentives for what was then called "Project Magellan" and agreed to keep the details confidential.
Scott in a statement called the announcement a "huge win" for the state and Florida's Space Coast region located around Cape Canaveral.