Bigger isn't always better.

But state officials say it certainly is in the case of McDonnell Douglas, which broke ground Friday morning on a $1.6 million expansion that could eventually mean 600 new jobs for Utah."In most cases the turning of a shovel of soil signifies a beginning, a start of an endeavor whose fruitfulness is still to be proven," said Gov. Norm Bangerter.

"Today, it indeed means a beginning. But it also means much more. It means Utah has proven itself a fertile ground for business expansion and growth."

The McDonnell Douglas facility currently employs about 600 people - several times the number first anticipated when the company decided to locate in Salt Lake City in 1986.

Currently, the 190,000-square-foot facility assembles a portion of the fuselages for the MD-80 twin-jet series of aircraft. Those parts are then shipped to Long Beach, Calif., for final assembly.

"Someday, I'd like to see finished airplanes fly off this runway," said Bangerter.

The expansion will increase the size of the facility by about one-fourth, as well as expand the role of the Salt Lake plant in the final assembly of jet fuselages. By the end of 1991, the Salt Lake plant will be building all four sections for the fuselage, which will then be shipped to Long Beach.

Employment is expected to eventually reach 1,200.

Company officials used the groundbreaking to praise Utah officials and the productivity of Utah workers. "Every time I come here I see cost-conscious people looking to do better," said John J. Van Gels, vice president of product center operations.

Van Gels also noted that to remain in Utah, McDonnell Douglas workers must improve the quality of their work while keeping costs low. "This is the third time I've been here and each time I've seen nothing but progress," he said.