‘Project X’ revealed: Details on GE Aviation’s local expansion plans

The Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County announced June 17 that GE Aviation is planning a major expansion of local operations, putting an end to months of speculation about a deal that had been known as “Project X.”

Bound by nondisclosure agreements required by the company, local government officials have been secretly negotiating economic incentive deals with the business for months.

Buncombe County agreed to spend $15.7 million on land acquisition and facility construction, and give the company an additional $2.68 million in cash grants.

The city of Asheville approved giving the GE Aviation $1.5 million in tax breaks.

In exchange, the company plans to invest $126 million into its local facilities and hire an additional 52 employees.

Final approval of the project is still pending state incentives, according to a press release from the office of Gov. Pat McCrory.

Here’s the full announcement from Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County:


Asheville, NC – In conjunction with the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County (EDC), GE Aviation, a world-leading producer of commercial and military jet engines, announced plans for a multi-billion dollar, nationwide investment to revolutionize jet propulsion.  This investment will usher in new technology, design, and materials that will make GE jet engines the industry standard for efficiency, while simultaneously reducing emissions. 

Buncombe County is among four North Carolina counties partnering to attract over $195 million in potential new statewide investment by GE Aviation to accommodate the adoption of new technologies.  The expansion opportunity across four counties and three municipalities has initiated a series of coordinated, public economic development processes expected to conclude in Summer 2013 with a statewide announcement.  Buncombe County and the City of Asheville have worked closely with GE Aviation to retain and expand local production capabilities to accommodate production of the revolutionary aircraft engine material known as Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC). 

Local expansion would bring a company investment of $126,000,000 in new, taxable capital equipment, and require the addition of 52 new positions to its current workforce of 300 in a new flagship facility in Sweeten Creek Industrial Park.

The multi-year transformation of the company’s products and workplace involved analysis and competition among 12 states in a nationwide review of site locations with the strongest historical performance, requisite workforce and optimum logistics to support the new strategic product direction. The formal announcement anticipated later this summer will cap a 70-year legacy for Western North Carolina’s only “Fortune 10” manufacturer and ensure its continued expansion for future generations.  The company formerly did business as NCI and Smiths Aerospace before acquisition into the GE family in 2008.

GE Aviation pioneered the development of Ceramic Matrix Composites, or CMCs, which are expected to be the mainstay of the next generation of jet engines.  The materials can outperform advanced metallic alloys and make jet engines lighter, more fuel efficient and cut emissions dramatically.  Research demonstrates a jet engine constructed using CMC materials can reduce fuel consumption by 15 percent, resulting in annual fuel savings of over $1 million per plane.  Aircraft powered by GE jet engines take flight every two seconds around the world, with demand for CMC components anticipated to increase tenfold over the next decade.

“We are excited about the opportunity for Asheville to become the manufacturing center for this groundbreaking technology,” said Michael Meguiar, Asheville Plant Leader for GE Aviation. “It’s a tremendous vote of confidence in our local workforce and demonstrates the great potential for our area to be integrally involved in the new technology.” 

“This milestone opportunity to participate in one of the most innovative industry transformations in decades inspired us to compete wisely to cement Asheville as a hub of high-tech advanced manufacturing.” stated EDC Board Chairman Paul Szurek.  “We believe this potential expansion will have a generational impact.”

“I’m proud to see Buncombe County seize this moment in our national economy, supporting a long-time local employer and one of the nation’s largest corporate citizens,” said David Gantt, Chairman of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.  “The expansion will mean not only hundreds of jobs for our citizens, but position our community as a leader in the green economy.”

Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy noted, “Our work with GE Aviation is exemplary of the partnership of good business with good governance.  It is always an honor for Asheville to be recognized as a leader within the business world.  I wish Michael Meguiar and the entire team at GE Aviation continued success in growing its business.”

This proposed investment in GE Aviation’s facility and equipment would generate $1.2M annually in new city and county property tax receipts. Following successful conclusion of the statewide public process, without which the project will not move forward, the new manufacturing facility will sustain over 750 direct, indirect and induced local jobs, $34M in annual income, and another $4.3M in annual state and local taxes essential to the fiscal health of our region.  For more information on GE Aviation and employment opportunities, please visit www.geaviation.com.

The EDC for Asheville-Buncombe County is a public-private partnership committed to: creating and retaining high quality jobs, community leadership, and being a resource for better business decisions.  The EDC accomplishes this mission through its four core services: business retention and expansion, small business and entrepreneurship, research, and marketing and recruitment.  The EDC is funded by Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, the Town of Weaverville,  the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the AVL 5×5 Campaign.

The Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is a member organization with over 1,800 member businesses and organizations. Chamber members collaborate with community organizations and coalitions to support the community and each other with the mission of building community through business. The Chamber is home to a 4,000 square foot Visitor Center which welcomes over 195,000 visitors per year.


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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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8 thoughts on “‘Project X’ revealed: Details on GE Aviation’s local expansion plans

  1. bsummers

    “That’s $382,000 per job”

    To be fair, isn’t it the case that the $15.7 million County figure is mainly about building the facility & then leasing it back to GE? So ostensibly, they get that money back. So, it’s only really $84,000 per job… That’s not so bad, right?

    But wait!! There’s more!

    “Final approval of the project is still pending state incentives”

    Good lord! How much MORE taxpayer money is being funneled into the tax-avoiding GE?


  2. Big Al

    I am relieved to see that Buncombe County and City of Asheville are not as “progressive” as they would have everyone believe. They have shown themselves to be just as profiteering and war-mongering as the next community, giving tax breaks to a company whose technology will make our bombers more fuel-efficient when killing America’s enemies (oh, and spreading those terra-formimg vapor trails).

    Yay, Asheville-Buncombe!

    A New World Order Community!

  3. sharpleycladd

    Who owns the land? Who owned the land prior to current owner? What was the last tax-assessed value of the land? How does the purchase price relate to appraisal? Who is the contractor? Bid or no-bid?

    This city needs an alternative weekly to do some investigative journalism.

  4. bsummers

    “This city needs an alternative weekly to do some investigative journalism.”

    That would be sweet.

    Here’s one clue to your question: Nathan Ramsey & Tim Moffitt wrote legislation specifically allowing Buncombe County to use the design-build method of procurement just for this project.


    But here’s the screwy part:

    “The County shall solicit at least three design-build teams to bid the project and shall receive at least three sealed proposals from those teams for the project.” (emphasis mine)

    It doesn’t say what happens if the private sector doesn’t comply with the NCGA’s edict that three firms “shall” deliver bids on the project for the County to evaluate. Odd.

  5. sharpleycladd

    The design-build thing is due to the fact that the project exceeds city-county’s scope of expertise. The code folks can’t run a project of this size, and are willing to pay the markup on subcontracting to get the project done by someone who can. Similarly, it’s likely that GE’s negotiators are more skilled at what they do than city-county EDC people. Swimming with the big shark dogs.

    Meanwhile, small businesses that need the city-county technical base to get projects built correctly get no help at all, though they help pay for this deal.

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