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BERKELEY, MO (KTVI) – Boeing celebrated a milestone in its corporate history Tuesday with the ground breaking for a new design and manufacturing center in Berkeley that will serve the company’s newest commercial passenger plane, the 777X.

It is the first time in company history that any commercial aerospace manufacturing will occur in St. Louis.  Boeing’s military fighter jet and missile production is headquartered on a campus near Lambert Airport.  The new work will bring as many as 700 new jobs to the area.

Company officials describe the new airliner as the largest and most efficient twin engine jet in the world.  Part of the reason is composite material made of carbon fiber. It is lightweight and resists corrosion so planes last longer and use less jet fuel.

The St. Louis center will have six autoclaves, a pressure cooker-like giant oven that can bake composite parts for airplanes under high pressure.

“It will be very flexible.  It will allow us to produce both defense and commercial products out of this one facility for both product lines,” said Obie Jones, a Boeing vice president.  He noted the high tech equipment and automation planned for the center will help Boeing produce more affordable products and attract new work in the future.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, Congressman Lacy Clay and Congresswoman Ann Wagner all praised the cooperation of local leaders, Boeing labor unions and the Missouri Legislature in the effort to win a bid to build the entire plane in St. Louis.  That attempt failed, but they welcomed the firm’s decision to produce wing parts at the St. Louis Boeing Defense, Space and Security Unit.

Wagner said, “Expanding our aviation manufacturing base here in St. Louis is critical to establishing Missouri as a leader in innovation and technology.”

Boeing already employs about 15,000 in the St. Louis region.