I was a reporter here when Panda Power Funds broke ground on its multimillion dollar power plant in south Sherman several years ago and the excitement from public officials and the community was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. At least, until last month when Finisar Corp. announced it would be producing vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers for Apple in the former MEMC building.

The Panda facility brought relatively few lasting jobs to the area, but Finisar announced it is starting by creating 500 new jobs for the area. And since this is just the first phase of the company’s expansion into Sherman, those jobs numbers could expand significantly in the coming years, especially if VCSEL technology continues to grow the way Finisar and Apple believe it will.

So while last month’s Finisar announcement — which also featured executives from Apple pledging their support for Finisar and Sherman — was the start of something big for Texoma as a region, it was also the result of a lot of work that got the area to this point in its history.

Sherman Economic Development Corp. President John Plotnik told me he and his staff first met with Finisar more than two years ago. SEDCO and the city had been marketing the empty MEMC building for the better part of the last seven years, hoping a company would bring life back to its nearly 700,000 square feet of space.

When I first heard about the Apple deal a few days before we broke the story last month, I had to call SEDCO to ask whether it was real and whether it was “the” Apple that was involved. They assured me it was, but still seemed just as bewildered and excited about the news as the community leaders and local citizens were when the official announcement was made.

The day of that announcement, we decided we wanted to put together a special section on what Finisar’s arrival in Texoma is going to mean for the community and that special section leads our local coverage in today’s edition. We’ve got stories on what the influx of people will mean for the local housing market, what area municipalities are doing to get ready for Finisar beginning operations here and an exclusive interview with a Finisar executive talking about what the future may hold for the company in Sherman.

We put a lot of work into the stories in this edition and I’m sure these are just the beginning of the local impact stories we’ll be writing about Finisar for years to come.

Happy birthday Sunday to Judy Robinson, Annie L. Hughley, Janiah Jacobs, Lycess Walker and Mary K. McKinney, all of Sherman; Charles Kelley of Denison; Brandon Hughes of Whitesboro; Duran Collins of Garland; Susan Armstrong of Whitewright; Emerie Wallace and Charles Huddleston, both of Luella; Donna Kanady Hatch of Corpus Christi; Ronnie Jack Giles of Chandler; Shantrell Burks Boyd of Dallas; Betty Ann Hunter of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dickie Nelson; and Bonnie McCourtney of Clackamas, Oregon.

Happy birthday Monday to Rocky Massengale and Deborah Jackson, both of Sherman; Jerry Luckie and Linda Brown of Denison; Carl Harrell of Whitewright: Jason Hannan of Colbert, Oklahoma; and Billy Don Jackson of California.