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Exelis opens at West Bay


WEST BAY — ITT Exelis officially opened its full-service mine defense production facility Friday morning with speeches from company officials and local politicians.

Systems produced by Exelis are heavily used by the U.S. Navy and allied forces to find and clear multiple types of sea mines during mine-clearing operations.

ITT Exelis Electronic Systems Division acting president Rick Sorelle told the crowd in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that the new facility would save the company money and time.

“Now we have a first-rate facility that will help us do better and help us add value to our customers,” Sorelle said.

The Exelis mine defense business moved from New York state in 2005 to Panama City with what company officials said was a “few employees.” The company now employs nearly 100 employees here, and it also is expanding to Asia and Europe.

“We are optimistic about the future, expanding with recent contract into the Republic of Korea and Japan,” said Brian Fish, site manager for ITT Exelis.

Representatives from South Korea were on hand for the opening.

U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, called the Exelis expansion at VentureCrosings, a St. Joe Co. development adjacent to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, a work of many individuals that joined together to make a project come to fruition.

“It is incredibly important that our trade — ships coming into our ports and out of our ports — that routes that shipping take are free of dangers,” Southerland said.

Southerland also noted the work Exelis does for the Navy and civilian fleets. He said Exelis helps “our economy move ships more freely.”

Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas also spoke at the ribbon cutting. “The infrastructure in Bay County is set up for many more businesses like this,” he said.

Exelis’ advanced minesweepers defeat mines and enable U.S. and allied navies to keep shipping lanes open. The Exelis systems are towed at high speeds through deep-ocean and near-shore waters by helicopters or minesweeping ships or are remotely operated during mine-clearance operations.

The new facility provides Exelis with 105,000 square feet for its business operations.

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