CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA-Crosspointe, home to a higher education partnership founded by the University of Virginia (U.Va.), Virginia Tech, the commonwealth of Virginia, Rolls-Royce Plc and others, has begun construction in Prince George County.

At more than 1,000 acres, Crosspointe is the largest Rolls-Royce site-by area-in North America and the company's first manufacturing facility built from the ground up in the U.S.

It will house the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM), a partnership founded by the state, U.Va., Virginia Tech, Rolls-Royce and other partners. The vision for CCAM is to become a world-class research facility delivering improved aerospace design and manufacturing technologies.

About 200 people attended the groundbreaking on Monday. Governor Timothy M. Kaine called the start of construction good news in challenging economic times, according to a report in theRichmond Times-Dispatch.

"This investment means a lot of things," Kaine said. "For those who wonder about whether manufacturing in the United States is dead or being off-shored, this is a strong investment on the ground to say, 'No, manufacturing is not only alive, manufacturing is thriving with innovation and technology and educational partnerships.'"

Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the groundbreaking, three years in the making, is an important milestone.

"It recognizes the hard work and cooperation that have produced a mutually beneficial public/private partnership that can make Virginia a national leader in engineering education, advanced manufacturing and the aerospace industry," he said Monday.

Rolls-Royce, a British company with its North American headquarters in Reston, Va., initially is planning to invest $170 million and hire 140 people at the plant. The investment and hiring eventually could grow to $500 million and 500 jobs. So far, about 60 acres have been cleared at the site, and the company said it now has about 60 employees in Virginia working on the project.

The factory is expected to be up and running by early 2011, company officials said.