By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Boeing Co <BA.N> said it would break ground on Tuesday for a propulsion facility in North Charleston, South Carolina, expanding its facilities in the nonunion state.
The facility, which will be known as Propulsion South Carolina, will design and assemble the engine nacelle inlet for the 737 MAX. A nacelle is the outer housing of a jet engine.
The planned expansion comes as Boeing appeared poised to consider building its newest jet, the 777X, outside of Washington state, after union leaders criticized a labor deal that was supposed help ensure the work went to Washington. Union members are due to vote on the contract offer on Wednesday. Boeing is looking at South Carolina and other sites for the new jet.
The new 225,000-square-foot facility will be located in Palmetto Commercial Park, near another Boeing center that makes interior parts for the 787 Dreamliner.
Engine nacelle inlet assembly is expected to start in mid-2015, Boeing South Carolina spokesman Robert Gross said on Friday. Initial engineering design work for the engine nacelle inlet has begun, Gross said.
Engineering design work for the 737 MAX and the new propulsion facility mark the first work for Boeing South Carolina on a commercial airplane other than the 787.
Nicole Piasecki, vice president and general manager of Boeing's propulsion systems division, and Charlie Hix, director of Propulsion South Carolina, are due to speak at Tuesday's groundbreaking.
The commercial park is on land that Boeing owns about 10 miles away from its main campus in North Charleston, which holds the second final assembly plant for the 787 Dreamliner.
The company has not said how many jobs the propulsion facility will add to its roster of almost 6,100 workers in South Carolina.
In spring, Boeing announced a more than $1 billion expansion at its North Charleston plant that would add 2,000 jobs over the next eight years.
Pattillo Industrial Real Estate, based in Stone Mountain, Georgia, will build the facility in about a year, Gross said.
Boeing also has workers at Joint Base Charleston who work on the military cargo C-17 airplane, Gross said. Engineers and the Propulsion South Carolina workers are included in Boeing's projected new 2,000 jobs over the next eight years, Gross said.
A new Boeing IT Center for Excellence, one of about 50 around the world, opened in North Charleston earlier this year.
Boeing announced last week that it would place much of the design work for its new 777X jetliner in North Charleston and a handful of other U.S. cities outside the Puget Sound area, where the current 777 was designed and is built.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod in South Carolina; Editing by Alwyn Scott and Richard Chang)