Sherman gathered local Realtors, developers and bankers Thursday as part of an effort to put together a packet of information on the city for Finisar Corp. and its prospective 600 new local employees.
Finisar, an optical communications components manufacturer, announced plans last month to begin producing vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers for Apple and its iPhone line at its Sherman facility in the former MEMC building. The company initially announced it plans to hire 500 employees for new high-skill jobs in Sherman, but City Manager Robby Hefton said that job number has already grown to nearly 600.
“Their number was 587 and experience tells me people are conservative with their numbers,” Hefton said of the number of employees the company stated it plans to hire on a tax abatement application Finisar filed with the city. “I’m rounding that to 600 and saying it’s going to be 600 plus (jobs).”
City staff gave a roughly half-hour presentation Thursday on the city’s current projects and needs for the future.
“We’re not being bashful about what we’re trying to do,” Director of Administration Terrence Steele said. “We’re trying to corral as many of those families that will be moving to this area as a result of Finisar — we’re trying to corral them to Sherman.”
Hefton and Steele explained the city is seeking samples and information from the area’s Realtors, developers and bankers to go into a packet Finisar will be able to use with new employees looking to move to the area. Steele said he was hoping developers would send information on the types of homes they build, their price range and things like that.
“I know for a fact that some of these people that are coming in will be coming from California,” Steele said. “A 1,400-square-foot home in California is priced totally different than a 1,400-square-foot home in Sherman. So what we want to do is give them samples of the types of homes that they can look forward to having or living in when they come here.”
Steele said while inviting area businesses to Thursday’s gathering he heard comparisons of Finisar’s plans to talk in decades past of possible local locations for Saturn and Disney that never came to pass.
“This is not a prospect — Finisar is here on the ground,” Steele said. “Finisar is actually in the building right now preparing for the contract they received from Apple.”
Finisar Chief Executive Officer Jerry S. Rawls said last month the company expects its new Sherman location to be producing VCSEL arrays by the second half of 2018. At the same time as Finisar’s announcement of its Sherman facility, Apple announced it was awarding Finisar with $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to increase the development and production of VCSEL arrays.
“They have a very aggressive goal of being in operation in the second half of 2018,” Hefton said. “And I believe that they’ll do that, mainly because they have the backing of about $400 million from Apple to get that done. I have a high level of confidence that they’re going to be successful in getting that program off the ground. So what that means for us is a number of those new jobs are going to be landing in our community.”
Hefton said the area housing market currently has about half the number of homes available that would normally be expected for an area of this size.
“I believe it’s going to take a concerted effort for us to be able to provide for our needs, particularly over the next year or two, as these things continue to grow,” Hefton said.
Steele asked that information for the packet be sent to him by 5 p.m. Tuesday.
“We want this information in Finisar’s hands before the end of January,” he said. “I know for a fact that the HR person they have hired is moving to Sherman from California next month. And once she gets into the community, I’m sure other things are going to gear up. We know there’s a lot of jobs that are available and not enough people to fill them. We want to bring in the people so that the developers can build the houses, the Realtors can sell the houses, the bankers can then get profit from the houses.”
Local builder Joe Gilbert with Joe Gilbert Construction said he will definitely be submitting material for the city’s packet for Finisar.
“Even prior to the announcement of Finisar, the Sherman market has been dynamic,” Gilbert said. “It has been something that we haven’t seen before, or at least I haven’t, so we’re expecting a great 2018.”
Landmark Bank’s Sherman Market President Greg Kirkpatrick said he felt the city did a good job with its presentation Thursday.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to again have the Realtors, developers, builders and banks get together and at least start the process to have that conversation to see what we can do to encourage the growth,” Kirkpatrick said.
Steele said in addition to the information from local Realtors, developers and banks, the packet will promote the community, the Sherman Independent School District and local amenities.
“We’re still deciding everything that’s going to go in there,” Steele said. “We invited every bank, every homebuilder. We’re hoping that everyone has an opportunity to participate. And the main goal was to bring the Realtors together not as competitors, but as a team. Your company may not get the sale, but if we work as a team, somebody from Sherman will benefit from it.”