Apple to expand to Phoenix, employ 700

PHOENIX — Tech giant Apple Inc. on Monday said it will open a manufacturing plant in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa that will eventually employ 700 workers and provide material currently used only in its iPhone 5 cameras and fingerprint reading sensors.

The Cupertino, Calif., company said it was expanding its U.S. manufacturing operations in a former First Solar plant in Mesa. The city southeast of Phoenix already hosts a long list of high-tech manufacturing firms.

About 1,300 construction jobs will also be created as the plant is converted. First Solar sold the plant last month after demand fell for the thin-film solar panels made there.

The Apple plant will be operated and staffed by GT Advanced Technologies Inc., which announced Monday that it will install and run furnaces to make glass-like items made of sapphire. Apple provided GT with a $578 million prepayment that will be reimbursed over five years starting in 2015, the company said.

Apple is looking to increase the use of sapphire crystals, possibly in its phone screens.

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