GROTON — Electric Boat employees joined state, local and federal officials Friday at the company’s Groton shipyard to break ground for a new facility dedicated to construction of the Columbia class of ballistic missile submarines.

“This expansion will be the largest construction project to take place at EB’s Groton shipyard in more than 45 years,” said Jeffrey Geiger, president of General Dynamics Electric Boat. He said that the 200,000-square-foot South Yard Assembly Building would enable to company to deliver "the U.S. Navy’s No. 1 acquisition priority," the next generation of the nuclear deterrent force.

The facility will eventually be home to 1,400 workers. It is the centerpiece of an $850 million expansion at the shipyard.  The company said it would also expand and update other manufacturing spaces and build a floating dry dock to launch the Columbia submarines.

AECOM of Los Angeles is the construction manager for the project. Gilbane Building Company of Providence is the project manager, and Jacobs Engineering Group of Dallas is the design firm.

In total, General Dynamics said it would invest more than $1.7 billion to modernize and upgrade its facilities over the next decade.  In addition to the facilities in Groton, the company is investing $700 million at its location in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Earlier in the week, the company announced that it had completed construction of a facility at Quonset Point to support construction of a payload module to expand the length, capability and capacity of Virginia class fast-attack submarines.

The company said in a press release that it had hired about 14,000 new employees in the last eight years, and has made sizable investments in training the the workers. employees who design, build and test the world’s most capable submarines. Electric Boat said it has worked with its national network of suppliers to prepare for the 2.5 times increase in supplies and materials needed to concurrently build the Columbia and Virginia classes.

The company now has a workforce of more than 17,000 employees at its three primary locations in Groton, New London, and Quonset Point.

Construction work on the Columbia program slated to run through the year 2042.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said, “The shovels turning earth in Groton today should send powerful message: America is investing in bold new technologies right here in eastern Connecticut, and it’s an investment that will be felt by supplier companies, machine shops, community colleges, and in other sectors all throughout our state.”

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