New Boeing center to offer bright ideas Research, technology operation aims to draw to draw top talent

Sriya Ngo demonstrates for people attending the grand opening of new Boeing research and technology facility how a lighted suit works in the Human Factors and Ergonomics area of the building.

Boeing’s latest Lowcountry investment promises to advance the aerospace giant’s products across the spectrum — from airplanes to satellites — by luring top science and engineering talent to the region, company officials said.

The aerospace giant unveiled its new research and technology center Thursday. “The people and facilities we’re introducing today will help us apply new technology and solutions to our products across the entire company faster and more efficiently than ever before,” said Lane Ballard, who runs the new operation in North Charleston’s Palmetto Commerce Park.

Work began on the 104,000- square-foot research center, which focuses on composite fuselage and propulsion systems, in early 2014. It’s part of Boeing’s plan to invest $1 billion in the Lowcountry and create 2,000 additional jobs by 2021.

Boeing already employs about 7,500 workers at its North Charleston sites, including a 787 Dreamliner assembly plant, a factory that builds Dreamliner interiors and a propulsion center that engineers and builds jet engine parts.

The center is one of five Boeing research facilities nationwide, with six more spread throughout the world.

Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said the North Charleston center will work collaboratively with the others on developing new technologies. It also benefits from having other Boeing operations nearby, allowing employees in those divisions to bring new ideas just up the road for testing, she said.

“Increasing our research and development footprint here demonstrates our continued commitment to the state of South Carolina, and will help Boeing and the region attract, develop and retain the best talent in the industry,” Wyse said.

The center includes lab spaces where scientists and engineers will study and develop advanced production systems; structural repair technologies; electromagnetic effects; nondestructive testing; chemical technology; and composite fabrication and materials.

The facility also has two autoclaves, which are essentially pressurized ovens used to cure parts made from composite materials, as well as a paint booth with automation capabilities and a clean room to combine composite layers together.

The center “will help us better meet the needs of our customers by enhancing our ability to provide effective, relevant technology in today’s competitive marketplace,” said John Tracy, Boeing’s chief technology officer and senior vice president of engineering, operations and technology.

Although the official opening was Thursday, the research and technology center has been operating since July 15. It’s housed in a leased building that can be expanded.

Boeing’s other U.S. research centers are in Alabama, California, Missouri and Washington. The overseas outposts are in Australia, Brazil, China, Europe, India and Russia.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_