Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

First look at Apple's U.S.-based sapphire crystal glass plant

November 5, 2013: 1:17 PM ET

Apple is bringing 2,000 jobs and solar power to this site in sunny Mesa, Arizona.

mesa

The building at right is the size of a shopping mall, about 1 million sq. ft. The site was once used as proving grounds for GM.

Inside the building. Photo: AZCentral

Inside. Photo: AZCentral

FORTUNE -- Local real-estate reporters in Arizona knew something was afoot when First Solar, a Tempe-based manufacturer of thin-film solar cells, said last week that it had sold one of its properties in nearby Mesa to an unknown buyer for $100 million.

Meanwhile, Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook told a Senate subcommittee last May that Arizona was one of five states where the company planned to repatriate some of its manufacturing operations, nearly all of which are now in Asia.

Arizona Governor Janice Brewer put two and two together for the media Monday morning, and suddenly the international press was all over the story: Apple, which closed its last American manufacturing facility ten years ago, was opening its second U.S. plant in a year.

  • The first, in Fort Worth, TX, is currently assembling Mac Pros.
  • The second, in Mesa, will make sapphire crystals like those that cover the iPhone 5S's TouchID fingerprint sensor.

According to GT Advanced Technologies, the New Hampshire-based firm that won the multi-year contract, Apple has pre-paid GT $578 million, which GT is scheduled to repay in five years starting in 2015. GT will own the factory equipment, including the ASFs (advanced sapphire furnaces) that it will build at the Mesa site.

Apple has promised to the make the plant 100% renewable by providing Mesa with additional solar and geothermal energy, news that didn't escape the notice of Greenpeace and the National Resource Defense Council.

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Below: Statements from various interested parties.

Governor Brewer:

"Apple is indisputably one of the world's most innovative companies and I'm thrilled to welcome them to Arizona. Apple will have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona and its decision to locate here speaks volumes about the friendly, pro-business climate we have been creating these past four years. Their investment in renewable energy will also be greening our power grid, and creating significant new solar and geothermal power sources for the state."

Apple:

"We are proud to expand our domestic manufacturing initiative with a new facility in Arizona, creating more than 2,000 jobs in engineering, manufacturing and construction.

GT Advanced Technologies:

"We are very excited about this agreement with Apple as it represents a significant milestone in GT's long term diversification strategy."

NRDC:

"Apple's new manufacturing facility in Arizona is good news for U.S. jobs and the environment... Their approach starts with energy efficiency in the facility's design and operation, and then ensures the load is met by renewables; this will benefit Apple shareholders as well as the environment."

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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