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ATLANTA-Spotting a niche in the volatile aerospace industry, Walled Lake, MI-based Williams International is investing $268 million in a jet engine manufacturing plant that is expected to have a workforce of 700 by 2009 in Huntsville, AL.

The global leader in small gas turbine engine manufacturing is building the first phase of the $14 million, 120,000-sf plant on 50 acres at the Jetplex Industrial Park near the Huntsville, AL airport. Williams anticipates opening the plant in 2004 with an initial staff of 81, according to the company’s prepared statement.

The plant will be used as a maintenance, repair and overhaul center for aircraft. Williams also will produce parts and components for small, gas turbine engines designed to make jets faster, quieter and more comfortable, the company says.

Williams officials couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But on the company’s Web site, Williams president Gregg Williams says the Alabama plant and the expanded 250,000-sf plant at the Ogden, UT airport are part of the company’s expansion program designed “to take advantage of increasing sales that are resulting from the trend in aircraft travel away from airliners and large corporate jets to small jets.”

Williams says “weakness in the airline business means opportunity for Williams International.” He says “the increase in our small jet engine production is based on our development of more advanced small turbo-fan engines for companies such as Cessna and Raytheon, along with new small aircraft developments by several promising new aircraft companies.”

Williams International was founded in 1955 by Dr. Sam B. Williams, an executive at Chrysler Corp. Williams Research corp. changed its name to Williams International in 1981.

Because the company is privately owned, the firm’s vision “stays focused; communication is straightforward; decisions are made quickly; and efforts are concentrated efficiently,” the firm’s Web site states.

The company claims it has an engine for every general aviation airplane. Williams continues to make and develop turbojet and turbo-fan engines for military operations.

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