Apple’s ( IW 500/4) announcement on November 4 that it was converting a plant, formerly owned by First Solar, to parter with GT Advanced Technologies Inc. to manufacture sapphire materials, was quite a coup for Mesa, Arizona.
But Mesa Mayor Scott Smith would argue that it wasn’t a coincidence. “The table was already set,” Smith says, explaining that the Gateway area where the plant is located was created five years ago in order to be ready for manufacturing companies. The facility and all its services fit Apple’s needs.
One of those needs was the ability to move quickly. “Companies want to move in as soon as possible," said Scott. "They can’t wait around for 9 months to get zoning approved. Gateway is a plug-and-play facility.”
The Mesa Gateway area is comprised of more than 30 square miles of land, earmarked for commercial and industrial development, and has both land and buildings available for expand or relocation and expansion. Over the years the necessary infrastructure has been built so the area has power capabilities, available water, large waste water capacity, natural gas, freeway access and telecom redundancy.
With regard to air freight, access the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport will have completed it's fifth expansion this fall, and long-term expansion plans call for a new terminal to be built.
From a research and develoment perspective, Arizona State University (ASU) Polytechnic’s College of Technology and Innovation is located there and houses more than 12,000 students. Additioanlly, Mesa and ASU have launched the Mesa Technology Accelerator. Also in the area is Arizona Laboratories for Security and Defense, a place where companies lease space and conduct highly sensitive research and manufacturing.
Looking at the talent pipeline there are 17 different colleges and universities including Chandler Gilbert Community College and East Valley Institute of Technology. Recently Grand Canyon University announced it will be building a campus just east of the airport that can accomdate 10,000 students.
As for business assistance, 2,200 acres have been designated as Foreign Trade Zone and portions of the Portions of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport have been designated as a Military Reuse Zone. These changes offer companies a transaction-privilege tax exemption, tax credits for job creation, and property reclassification , which could result in property tax savings of up to 75% for a period of five years.
All of these perks were enough to attract some hi-tech companies including Bridgestone, Mitsubishi, FUJIFILM, TRW, Lockheed Martin, Cessna and Embraer.
Again, Mayor Smith is quick to point out that having hi-tech manufactuers calling Arizonia home is not just circumstantial as the state was called the Silicon Desert in the 70s.
“Apple’s decision to set up shop here is a further catalyst to growth, and I have already received a number of calls from companies who want to learn what Apple already knows.”