By Bob Christie
PHOENIX — Apple (AAPL) said Monday it will invest $2 billion over 10 years to open a data center in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa that will be the company’s fifth in the U.S. and serve as a control facility for the other four.
The announcement comes four months after an earlier Apple plan for the 1.3 million-square-foot facility it bought in 2013 failed. The tech giant had a deal with Merrimack, New Hampshire-based GT Advanced to use the plant to make sapphire glass for its products, but the company declared bankruptcy in October after production issues developed. GT openly accused Apple of using a “classic bait-and-switch strategy” with a deal that he called “massively one-sided.”
Apple lawyers accused the GT of making false statements about the deal, among other allegations.
After the GT failure, Apple said it would work to find another use for the plant. It also has been working to help more than 600 GT employees who lost their jobs.
“This multi-billion dollar project is one of the largest investments we’ve ever made, and when completed it will add over 600 engineering and construction jobs to the more than one million jobs Apple has already created in the U.S.,” Apple said in a statement. “Like all Apple data centers, it will be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, much of which will come from a new local solar farm.”
An Apple spokesman said construction on the new data center should start late next year, if not earlier. GT is storing advanced furnaces it planned to use in its Apple venture at the plant while the furnaces are being liquidated, delaying the immediate use of the plant.
Apple company expects 150 permanent workers at the site, in addition to construction crews and contractors.
Apple also has committed to building and financing 70 megawatts of new solar power generation, enough to power more than 14,500 homes.
“This is a great day for Arizona, and we have moved rapidly to make this happen and take advantage of Apple’s interest in our state,” Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement. “Apple is by far one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world. Its decision to bring this new facility to Mesa is a huge win for Arizona and a high testament to our business-friendly climate and talented workforce.”
GT’s October bankruptcy and ensuing effort to shut down the factory marked a surprising turn after state, local and business leaders previously bragged that the plant would be a major boost to the Arizona economy.
Then-Gov. Jan Brewer had hailed Apple’s decision to open the plant in Mesa in November 2013, calling it a sign that the Arizona’s efforts to provide a pro-business climate were paying off. The state has cut business taxes and created several incentives designed to lure new manufacturing businesses in the past several years.
Apple’s data centers provide the computer muscle for its iCloud, ITunes, Siri and other products.