On March 20 the Mesa City Council approved a resolution laying the groundwork for FujiFilm Electronic Materials U.S.A. Inc. to enter into a development agreement with the city manager to expand its current facility, west of Mountain road and north of Pecos road, 20 acres to the west over to Signal Butte Road.
“That is pretty awesome isn’t it,” Mesa Councilman Kevin Thompson said. “It just adds to that venue of having these organizations that we become their only North American operation and I think that is something Mesa can be proud of.”
City spokesman Steven Wright said Fujifilm will determine the timeline and the estimated cost of the project.
Fujifilm declined to comment on the expansion process.
The rezoning request covers approximately 50.12 acres and also includes the existing facility. Last year, Fujifilm expanded 5.82 acres to the north of its current facility and the rezoning includes that.
Mesa Planning Director John Wesley said the project will encompass two phases.
“The first phase, which is basically the south half of the western expansion will be used mostly for storage of isotainers (where Fujifilm stores their chemicals), you’ve also got tanks on that side that are part of processing,” Mr. Wesley said. “The second phase concludes the north half of the new property and it shows three buildings, two office buildings and a warehouse.”
Mr. Wesley said that once Fujifilm applies for building permits, a value estimate of the project should get determined.
The company manufactures chemicals for the semiconductor industry. It opened its Mesa facility in 1995, one of only two locations in North America. Fujifilm, along with Apple, Bridgestone Research and TRW Vehicle Safety Systems help make up the city’s Elliot Road Technology Corridor.
Councilman Ryan Winkle of District 5 said Fujifilm’s desire to expand is further proof of Mesa’s business-friendly environment.
“Mesa is a perfect place for tech, med and bio sectors to locate,” Councilman Winkle said of technology, medical and biotech sectors. “Access to freeways, an educated workforce and an innovative environment has led to an increase in the teach market. There is a need for Fuji’s product. This is great news for our citizens because any expansion will bring with it jobs.”
Councilman Thompson said this resolution will spur economic growth and create jobs in Mesa. He said Fujifilm has a new product line that Intel and other members of the microchip and semiconductor industries want.
He said the first and second phases of the project will employ an estimated 100 people. The councilman was told jobs associated with the construction aspect of the project are more than likely temporary, but once the expansion is complete, he said Fuji will likely hire full-time chemical engineers to run the operation.
“You’re looking at chemical-engineering folks, so those are going to be the high-wage jobs; the $75,000- to $90,000-a-year-type jobs,” he said.
Councilman Thompson said he hopes Fujifilm’s expansion and the jobs created as a result will help trigger the top-down economic development he said the city is looking for.
“As you see the economy come up and as people start making more money, they obviously will have some expendable income,” he said. “People will be able to buy more items and they can afford to go out to eat lunch and eat dinner more often.”
A part of the expansion property is adjacent to the east side of the Signal Butte alignment, north of Pecos and Williams Field roads, according to city council documents. As part of the agreement, Fujifilm has agreed to dedicate the Signal Butte right of way, but it is not responsible for construction. At the time of the agreement, a right of way did not exist.
Councilman Thompson said the right of way portion of the agreement was necessary so development plans don’t conflict with the Arizona Department of Transportation’s right of way plans.
“Because of the SR 24 (Arizona State Route 24) and the fact that the plant will butt right up to what will be the ADOT right of way, so for 24, they will have the turn off for Signal Butte. Part of that was trying to get that Signal Butte alignment piece and the ADOT piece worked out, and I think they have done a pretty good job of closing all the holes and plugging all the gaps,” he said.
Joe Jacquez is a journalism student at the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and wrote the article as a class assignment.