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U.K. laser optics company expanding to Sahuarita

Ten-year lease agreement bringing high-tech, high-paying jobs
Posted: 6:31 AM, Mar 17, 2022
Updated: 2022-03-17 12:54:44-04
Ten-year lease agreement in SAMTEC building bringing high-tech, high-paying jobs

SAHUARITA, Ariz. (KGUN) — You might think of that classic 1989 baseball film when considering why the Town of Sahuarita is excited to see its investment in a tech hub attracting new business.

The outer shell of the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center (SAMTEC) is built.

But if you step into the 14,000 sq. foot wing of the site on La Ca˜nada Drive right now, it's still a blank canvas. British optics firm PowerPhotonic Ltd. will have to fill out the rest with its own designs.

"[The company] has a very aggressive timeline," Victor Gonzalez shared. "They'd like to occupy the space and be producing before the end of the year, certainly."

Gonzalez helped secure the new venture as the Town of Sahuarita's economic development director. With the town's council approving the lease's terms in late February, the small business based in Scotland will commit to a yearly base rent of over $109,000 -- increasing by 3% each year -- for 10 years.

Gonzalez said his team's estimates expect a multi-million-dollar addition to the local economy.

"That $76 million impact does cover what is the direct impact and also make some assumptions for the indirect spending that will take place," he said.

KGUN 9 talked to Steve Kidd, head of sales and marketing at PowerPhotonic, bridging the physical divide of thousands of miles through a virtual video call.

What makes Sahuarita stand out?

Kidd said, perhaps reason 1-A, is specialists and experts in his line of work across the globe recognize the prestige the University of Arizona's optics program has earned.

Reason 1-B, he adds, has more to do with the town's eagerness to welcome Powerphotonic's decision to grow.

"It was down to the both, the responsiveness and enthusiasm of the local community," Kidd revealed. "To be able to to say, 'Look, this is this is a good place for PowerPhotonic to put down some roots and to put a facility in."

According to Kidd, once the office is manufacturing at full production, 20 employees will earn well-paying salaries.

In particular, he said, technically skilled workers would don special gear to operate state-of-the-art lasers to cut and weld their products.

Knowing major industry juggernauts like Raytheon have operation bases only miles away, Kidd says it makes perfect sense to join a cluster where knowledge is shared and clients know to visit.

"In order to have that credibility, I would argue very strongly that we need to be located in a place where there's a reputation abroad and acceptance that that's an understood place to be," Kidd explained.

The Town of Sahuarita saw that as an opportunity to attract this technical talent.

Mayor Tom Murphy said the financial crisis of 2008 underscored a need to stop relying heavily on new home construction, and instead add to the town's tax base by convincing people it's a safe, attractive place to live.

"We really want to have jobs here," Murphy said. "It's better for the parents if they could obviously work a little closer and if their child is getting an award at school, it's probably much more likely they can pop out of a local business and run over to the school as opposed to coming down from Tucson."

Both sides say there's a window in the future where the company could ask for more work space down the road.

As for the aggressive timeline to start, Kidd said PowerPhotonic hopes to have the operation going once the worst of the Arizona summer is gone.

José Zozaya is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. Before arriving in southern Arizona, José worked in Omaha, Nebraska where he covered issues ranging from local, state and federal elections, to toxic chemical spills, and community programs impacting immigrant families. Share your story ideas and important issues with José by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.