By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer
GE Aircraft Engines is constructing a $15 million "front door'' to its sprawling Evendale headquarters and manufacturing plant along Interstate 75.
The new facility, under study for about two years, will be the first new building constructed at the Evendale complex in more than 40 years. The complex dates to World War II.
"We view this building as our front door to the community,'' said spokesman Rick Kennedy.
The 50,000-square-foot "learning center'' will include a 350-seat auditorium, a dozen classrooms and customer meeting areas, and house GE's jet propulsion museum.
The museum, tracing the evolution of GE's industry-leading jet engine business, was in the basement of Building 100, GEAE's headquarters building, but has been closed since flooding two years ago.
The investment comes as GEAE and the rest of the commercial aviation industry are mired in the worst slump in history. GEAE, which has cut costs and jobs in the wake of the slowdown, has said it doesn't expect an industry rebound until after 2006.
Kennedy said the investment is designed to underscore GEAE's long-term commitment to the jet propulsion industry.
"Even though the industry is the worst downturn in its history, we've continued to spend about $1 billion a year on new engine programs. We view this as no different than that engine development effort.''
He said the facility will be mainly designed to host the company's worldwide airline customers. GEAE now has no large facility to host customers and employees and typically holds those gatherings off site, Kennedy said.
The two-story facility, slated to open late next year, will be located in what is now a parking lot facing I-75, in front of Building 501. To raise funds for the GE community service fund, GE is selling commemorative bricks for the entrance to employees to remember family and co-workers.
The facility will have an entrance from the access road that parallels I-75. Public access to the GEAE complex now is typically through a security guard shack off Neumann Way, which separates Building 100 from the learning center site.
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