MELBOURNE, Fla., Oct 9 (Reuters) - Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer broke ground on a new assembly plant in the central Florida city of Melbourne on Thursday, more than doubling its industrial footprint in an area hard-hit by the retirement of NASA's space shuttles three years ago.
The 236,000-square-foot facility, located adjacent to Melbourne International Airport, will include an assembly hangar, paint facility, flight preparation staging area and dedicated delivery center for Embraer business jets.
The company already has a 212,000 square-foot plant to assemble its Phenom aircraft in Melbourne, located about 50 miles south of NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Embraer also plans to assemble its new Legacy 500 and Legacy 450 aircraft in Melbourne.
"It's an expansion of the industrial operation," Gary Spulak, president of Embraer's U.S. subsidiary, Embraer Aircraft Holding, told reporters at a press conference before the groundbreaking ceremony. "It's about 2.5 times the size of the existing facility that is there today to support Phenom 100 and 300."
Embraer intends to add another 600 employees to its 400-member Melbourne workforce beginning in 2016, when the new facility is expected to open. Melbourne was among cities that bore the brunt of layoffs when NASA retired the space shuttles in 2011.
In addition to its production facilities and customer service center, Embraer recently opened its first engineering center outside of Brazil in Melbourne.
"It shows the strong level of commitment to our customers as well as our faith in this remarkable community," Embraer's president and chief executive, Frederico Fleury Curado, said. (Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Leslie Adler)