The city of Sherman is ready and equipped to meet the infrastructure needs of Finisar Corp. when the communication component manufacturer begins operations in the region later this year.
The manufacturer, who develops components that will be used in Apple devices, announced plans in mid-December to purchase and start production in the former MEMC building in South Sherman. This comes as Apple awarded Finisar $390 million from its Advanced Manufacturing Fund to increase spending on research, development and production of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers.
The move to Sherman is expected to create about 500 new jobs at the facility, officials said.
“As things stand currently, it does not appear Finisar will need anything upgraded infrastructure-wise,” Community Services Manager Nate Strauch said in a emailed statement. “When the MEMC building was put in, the City built up the infrastructure to meet not only their current needs, but possible expansions, as well. So the building, as is, has enough capacity to serve Finisar's production. It's certainly one of the reasons they chose Sherman.”
When Finisar moves into the MEMC building, it will become one of the largest users of treated water in Sherman, City Manager Robby Hefton said. In total, Finisar is estimated to use about 1 million gallons of treated water per day.
“I expect Finisar to be in the top five water users, if not the top user in the city,” he said.
This would put Finisar likely above other heavy water users, including Tyson and Texas Instruments. Hefton noted that some industries, including Tyson, have heavily reduced their water usage over the years through water reclamation and reuse practices.
This would still be less water than Panda Energy uses at its Sherman location, but Hefton noted that it uses about 2 to 3 million gallons of raw water daily. This is separate from the treated water that will be used at Finisar, he said.
As the Panda plant has been generating less energy than originally anticipated, and thus using less water, Strauch noted that adding another major water user in the area will help offset that deficit and help reduce the need for Sherman to increase its water rates.
Hefton said when the MEMC building was built in the mid-90s, it was designed with expansion in mind and featured water infrastructure that was beyond its current need. As such, the infrastructure will not need to be expanded for this demand, Hefton said.
This comes as the city is currently completing upgrades to its water system that will increase its capacity for water production by 10 million gallons per day, effectively doubling the number of surface-water gallons it produces each day. By comparison, the Finisar location will use about 5 percent of this production, Hefton said.
With regard to roadway infrastructure, Hefton said the city recently improved Shepherd Drive, which provides connectivity to the site. As such, Hefton said he does not expect the site itself to need additional roadway infrastructure.
However, he said proposed and ongoing improvements to U.S. Highway 75 will assist the site and anticipated growth on the south side of town. These improvements include plans to expand the highway to six lanes. The Sherman-Denison Metropolitan Planning Organization announced that two separate projects that will expand the roadway will receive funding through the Texas Department of Transportation and will see work in 2020.
Additionally, proposed ramp reversals near FM 1417 will also increase access for traffic coming and going from the site, Hefton said.
SDMPO Director Clay Barnett said the only road that the organization oversees that would see considerable impact by the opening of the facility is the highway. However, as ramps for both northbound and southbound traffic are within one mile of the site, Barnett said they meet the current standards.
“With Finisar and expected commercial, retail and even residential growth in the area, we expect this to hasten the need for TxDOT improvements,” he said.
However, Hefton noted that he was uncertain what kind of impact that freight traffic generated by the site would have. With that in mind, Hefton still said he was confident that the area's infrastructure can handle the load, especially when rail and air are considered.
With regards to power and electricity, Hefton said he was uncertain of the specific needs of Finisar, and if it would need any special considerations regarding drawing directly from the power grid. However, he said he felt confident that the site's proximity to the Panda site would be a boon to all involved.
As an example, Hefton said the proximity to power generation would give the plant some protection in the event of brownouts or other difficulties on the power grid.