MOUNT VERNON — Several hundred Rolls-Royce Energy Systems employees gathered under the noontime sun Wednesday as ground was broken for a $10 million, two-story office building at the northwest corner of Sandusky and Chestnut streets.
When finished in the fall, the 35,000-square-foot building will replace the aging Rolls Tech Center (formerly the Mount Vernon Bridge Co.) on North Adams Street, and will also house staff from several other departments. About 300 Rolls-Royce personnel will work out of the new building.
The common theme of comments made by several speakers was the importance of cooperation between the local community and the private sector.
Mike Terrett, chief operating officer of London-based Rolls-Royce plc, said, “Local support has made this possible. We are important to the community and vice versa, and we help to secure all of our futures by making the most of this opportunity.”
“It seems a short time since we made the transition from Cooper to Rolls-Royce,” Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Mavis said. “At the time, the questions were ‘Will they stay here, will they invest in the community, will they maintain employment and grow it?’ Now we know the answer to all three questions is yes. Not much happens without public and private cooperation, and we want to move ahead hand-in-hand toward our community’s bright future.”
Rolls-Royce purchased its sprawling Mount Vernon site from Cooper Energy Services in 1999, and has employed as many as 1,200 people locally. That number was reduced by about 200 due to layoffs of union workers in 2011 as a result of slowing orders during the economic downturn. Rolls’ $10 million commitment to the new building is seen as evidence that cutbacks aside, the company is planning for a long future in Knox County.