First Solar

The First Solar plant being constructed in Mesa, shown Thursday, October 6, 2011.

Tim Hacker, 10/13 Communications

One of the world’s largest technology companies will build a brand-new manufacturing facility in Mesa that will add hundreds of permanent jobs and more than 1,000 temporary construction positions to the region.

The Governor’s Office announced in a press release Monday that Apple will open a plant in Mesa that will create a minimum of 700 jobs in its first year alone. That doesn’t include the estimated 1,300 construction and associated positions that should come from the facility’s construction.

The plant will be located in the city’s Gateway region at the more than 1 million-square-foot First Solar facility, which is near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and the Eastmark community.

According to a press release from GT Advanced Technologies, the facility will produce sapphire material for Apple products. Per the release, GT will own and operate furnaces and other pieces of equipment to produce the sapphire material for Apple, with Apple owning the actual facility.

As part of a multi-year supply agreement, Apple will provide GT a prepayment of approximately $578 million, and will reimburse Apple over the course of five years beginning in 2015.

Mayor Scott Smith called the news a win for the City of Mesa and the state of Arizona, and said the recruitment, which he said took a couple of months to complete, represented a solid round of teamwork between the city, state, Maricopa County, Salt River Project and the Greater Phoenix Economic Development Council.

While Apple’s decision will have an effect on the entire city, Smith said the decision to purchase the property in the Gateway region is a “big shot in the arm” for that section of Mesa. In recent years, the Gateway region has seen an expansion of the airport, the opening of Eastmark earlier this year within the former GM Proving Grounds, and the announcement by Grand Canyon University that it will build a campus in the area.

“It’s a culmination of all of our efforts in the last five years in Gateway,” he said.

He added the technological nature of the Apple facility also falls in line with Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus located in that same neighborhood.

Smith said building and construction ranging from walling to plumbing are needed in order to convert the First Solar facility — a building Smith said is comparable in size to a small mall — into a building that can fit Apple’s requirements. But he said Apple wants to get going on the construction work as soon as possible, and added the company could start the building and overhaul process within the next few weeks or ensuing months.

“We’re not going to be sitting here next year and waiting for construction to start,” he said.

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