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Apple to repurpose Mesa, Ariz. sapphire plant after GT Advanced vacates

Adding background to Apple's vow to keep as many jobs as possible at its Mesa, Ariz., sapphire plant leased to GT Advanced, a new report says the facility will be repurposed, suggesting some current employees may be able to continue work at the location.

Since Apple sapphire partner GT Advanced filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, there has been no clear sign as to what Apple plans to do with its Mesa, Ariz., plant or its local staff once current operations cease.

On Tuesday, Mesa City manager Christopher Brady shed some light on the matter, at least as it pertains to the 1.3 million-square-foot structure, reports Bloomberg.

"They've indicated their commitment to us: They want to repurpose that building and use it again," Brady said about Apple's plans.

Built off of a former solar panel factory, Apple's Mesa plant was announced last year by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who touted Apple's presence as a major economic driver for the state. The company finished the build this summer, complete with renewable energy power supply agreements and its own eco-friendly power station.

AppleInsider reported in March that Apple was planning to expand beyond the existing structure and into an adjacent building and plot of land, though plans have expectedly been put on hold. The area is ripe for investment, however, especially given the up to 70 percent property tax break allowed thanks to its designation as a foreign trade zone.

Mesa Mayor John Giles also voiced support for Apple's continued interest in Arizona, saying he plans to visit the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., in the near future.

"Apple could've invested in a facility literally anywhere in the world," Mayor Giles said. "There's a reason they came here, and none of those reasons have changed."

Apple leased the facility to GT Advanced as part of a $578 million contract for sapphire material manufacturing. The deal went sour after GT was unable to meet what it characterized as "oppressive and burdensome" demands.

Shortly after its bankruptcy announcement, GT said it would axe more than 700 jobs from the Mesa project. Apple subsequently issued a public statement saying it is "focused on preserving jobs in Arizona following GT's surprising decision" and plans to "work with state and local officials" during the transition period. So far, there have been no official notices as to how Apple intends to handle the situation.