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Arizona wins new Apple manufacturing plant

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 by Mark Richardson

Apple announced Monday that it plans to open a manufacturing operation in a Phoenix suburb that will eventually create up to 2,000 jobs making sapphire glass for a number of the company’s products. The deal was announced Monday by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who said that the project will create more than 700 permanent jobs and an additional 1,300 construction jobs in the state.


However, it appears that Phoenix’s gain is not necessarily Austin’s loss, as several sources close to Apple say that the technology giant still plans to bring significant operations to Texas – and likely to Austin – to assemble its Mac Pro desktop computer. Economic development officials in Austin have hinted strongly that Apple will contract with computer-manufacturer Flextronics, which is opening a new plant in North Austin. That company has announced plans to hire up to 1,700 workers for a not-yet-specified business expansion.


Both operations will be moved from China in a push by Apple to strengthen its “Made in the USA” credentials.


Apple also announced that it will partner in Arizona with the Salt River Project, a Phoenix-based power company, to manufacture and install renewable energy sources – including both solar and geothermal power – that they say will allow the plant to operate 100 percent off the grid. 


Arizona officials, who lost out to Austin last December for a 3,600 employee back office operation, were understandably elated over the news.


“Apple is indisputably one of the world’s most innovative companies and I’m thrilled to welcome them to Arizona,” said Governor Brewer. “Apple will have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona. . . Their investment in renewable energy will also be greening our power grid, and creating significant new solar and geothermal power sources for the state.”


In a statement made to the technology website, Apple said, “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,” further noting that “this new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100 percent renewable energy from day one, as a result of the work we are doing with SRP to create green energy sources to power the facility.”


Sapphire glass is used abundantly in Apple products, including the Touch ID fingerprint sensor and camera lens in the iPhone 5S.  Industry insiders also say Apple may be planning to use sapphire glass on a watch PC device.


There was no mention by Arizona officials of any economic incentives.


Another tech website,, continues to quote unnamed sources at Apple as saying Apple will assemble its first computer in years in the United States at a Flextronics plant in Austin. Late last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook told a number of news media sources, including NBC News and Politico, that Apple is planning to spend about $100 million to bring its Mac Pro and other manufacturing operations home to locations such as Arizona, Texas, Illinois, Florida and Kentucky.


Construction is nearing completion on the first phase of Apple’s $304 million expansion of its back office facilities in North Austin. The company is adding some 800,000 square feet to the operation, which will house much of the company’s business operations.


Economic development officials with the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce and the City of Austin did not return calls Monday seeking comment.

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