By David Wichner for Arizona Daily Star
The tiny town of Sahuarita is looking to build its first tech park, the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center with the help of a $3M federal grant.
It has two potential first tenants, both involved in the fast-growing drone industry.
Sahuarita won the grant through the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.
The grant, along with about $1.2M in matching funds from the town and a $165K grant from Freeport McMoRan, will be used to construct a 32KSF, single-story commercial building on a roughly four-acre lot.
The Arizona Commerce Authority provided a Rural Economic Development Grant for a required sewer extension at the project site in 2015.
The town plans to put architectural and design work out to bid in the next month or so and break ground in the first quarter of 2018, with a goal of occupying the center by sometime in mid-2019, said Victor Gonzalez, Sahuarita’s economic-development manager.
SAMTEC is small compared with other tech parks in the region, but Gonzalez said it is an important step as the town with a reputation as a bedroom community seeks to diversify its economy under its long-term strategic growth plan.
In a small town dominated by housing — Sahuarita has about 28,000 residents on 32 square miles — two growing high-tech companies stood out, Gonzalez said.
Hydronalix Inc. — a maker of robotic watercraft for rescue and research founded by University of Arizona alumnus and serial entrepreneur Tony Mulligan — was looking for space to grow as it ramps up production.
Next door, Control Vision Inc. also is growing its business making optical sensors and control systems for heavy-duty industrial, scientific and military applications.
In late 2015, Sahuarita got the bad news that Freeport McMoRan, a major local employer, was cutting about 500 workers at its nearby Sierrita Mine, citing low copper prices.
Freeport ended up delaying making further planned cuts, but the job losses allowed the SAMTEC project to qualify for a federal Economic Adjustment Assistance grant to help distressed communities.
The town expects that SAMTEC will attract other companies as suppliers, estimating the project will create 75 new jobs, retain 31 jobs and generate $500K in private investment.
Hydronalix and Control Vision are expected to take up all but about 5KSF of the SAMTEC building, Gonzalez said.
But there is room to expand SAMTEC on the town land and it is part of an undeveloped area, including private land, of about 60 acres that is zoned for business parks.
Read more at Arizona Daily Star.
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