Nearly a decade after the closure of its last US factory, Apple is to create 2,000 manufacturing, engineering and construction jobs at a new plant in Arizona.
The California technology titan is beginning to shift production back to its home market, with the creation of its second US plant in under a year. It is understood the renewable energy powered facility in Mesa, Arizona, will produce laboratory grown sapphire crystals of the kind used in the iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner.
The initiative is a joint venture with crystal growth equipment specialist GT Advanced Technologies, which said Monday it had signed a multi-year agreement with Apple to provide furnaces to make sapphire. The material, which has been used in watch faces, is more scratch-resistant than glass and may eventually be used to make Apple's screens.
"Apple will have an incredibly positive economic impact for Arizona," said governor Janice Brewer. "Their investment in renewable energy will also be greening our power grid, and creating significant new solar and geothermal power sources for the state."
Run with solar and geothermal energy, which uses heat from deep underground, the plant has been designed in collaboration with local utility Salt River Project.
The building will be owned by Apple, while the furnaces will be supplied by GT Advanced, with a $578 down payment from Apple which will be reimbursed over five years starting in 2015 and is understood to come with certain exclusivity rights.
Demand for industrially produced sapphire has rocketed since Apple began using the material to protect camera lenses in 2012, according to research firm IHS Suppli. The deal will help Apple secure control over a scarce resource.
Next month, the first Macintosh computer made in America since 2004 will go on sale. The Mac Pro, whose internal parts are contained in an unusual cylindrical shell, has been produced from a purpose-built plant in Austin, Texas, in a joint venture with contract manufacturer Flextronics which has created 1,700 jobs.
Apple closed its last American computer assembly plant in Elk Grove, California, in June 2004, having by then shifted much of its production to contract manufacturers in Asia. By then, the company had given up making its own products and outsourced the work to sub-contractors such as Foxconn.
But bad publicity surrounding the treatment of workers at the plants owned by Foxconn and other companies operating in China have led Apple to take more control over production.
Other companies have followed suit. Google, which now owns the Motorola smartphone group, has opened a site in Texas, where its latest smartphones are being assembled. Caterpillar, the construction and mining equipment maker, and General Electric, have been opening factories at home in recent years. Samsung has also opened a semi-conductor fabrication plant in Texas, where it makes chips for 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," Apple said in a statement. "This new plant will make components for Apple products and it will run on 100% renewable energy from day one."
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