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Prince George
County, VA

Rolls-Royce to close Prince George County factory, laying off nearly 300 workers

The Rolls-Royce aircraft component factory in Prince George County will close and lay off hundreds of employees by the middle of 2021, a victim of the economic fallout and collapse in global travel resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company plans to shutter the factory in the Crosspointe office park near Interstate 295 by mid-next year, putting 280 employees out of work, a spokesman for Rolls-Royce North America confirmed Saturday.

The job losses come on top of 120 layoffs at the factory — the first Rolls-Royce manufacturing facility built from the ground up in the U.S. — that took place in June.

The factory, which opened in 2011 on a 1,000-acre site in Prince George, had reached peak employment of about 400 people last year. It makes precision aircraft components such as rotative discs and turbine blades.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a historic collapse in civil aviation, which will take several years to recover. As a result, we’ve had to make difficult, but necessary, decisions to protect the future of our business,” Rolls-Royce North America spokesman Don Campbell said in a statement.

Rolls-Royce, a British company with its North American headquarters in Reston, has cut its workforce elsewhere worldwide as it deals with the travel slump that’s drastically shrunk the aviation market.

“Due to the significant reduction in demand for our civil products and services, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we no longer have the workload necessary to sustain operations at the site. In an attempt to stem further layoffs [at the company] and retain as many employees as possible, we have taken swift and decisive action to reduce spending,” he said. “However, the severity of the economic fallout from COVID-19 made the closure of our Crosspointe facility unavoidable.”

Employees at the plant were told Friday, he said.

“This news will understandably be very worrying for our colleagues, and our number one priority is to provide support to them and their families at this time,” Campbell said.

The layoffs in June were a result of what Rolls-Royce described as “an immediate reduction in workload as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were hopeful that those reductions would be sufficient but, since that time, it’s become clear that the economic downturn from the pandemic will depress orders for years to come. We simply don’t have enough workload to sustain the facility.”

The closure of the plant also could have a ripple effect on the economy in central Virginia, as other companies that supply the factory lose business. The factory was expected to attract a network of suppliers in the same way that automobile factories tend to attract numerous satellite businesses.

“The presence of Rolls-Royce in Prince George County has certainly helped put the Gateway Region on the map as an ideal location for advanced manufacturing companies,” said Keith Boswell, president and CEO of Virginia’s Gateway Region, a regional economic development organization that markets the cities of Colonial Heights, Hopewell and Petersburg, and the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex.

“They have been a quality employer for our region and will be greatly missed as a valued economic development partner,” Boswell said. “Virginia’s Gateway Region will continue to work with our communities and with the state to promote the region as a prime location for future economic development projects.”