OZ Optics migrates to Arizona’s ‘Optics Valley’

Arizona continues to shine as a growth area for the development and manufacture of optics, lasers, and optoelectronic devices.

TUCSON, AZ - Arizona continues to shine as a growth area for the development and manufacture of optics, lasers, and optoelectronic devices. One of the latest additions is OZ Optics (Ottawa, ON, Canada), which is gearing up to open a small manufacturing and testing plant at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park. The new facility is slated to open July 1.

It has been more than a year since a memo of understanding was signed between the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ) and Carleton University (Ottawa, ON, Canada) to launch up to 10 joint projects in optical sciences and biomedicine, which may have been one of the factors influencing OZ Optics to establish this new U.S. facility. OZ Optics has been collaborating with both universities over the past five years in research and development activities related to the company’s line of fiberoptic components and test equipment, and OZ was one of the Ottawa companies that participated in a visit to Tucson in late 2002 initiated by the Ottawa Center for Research and Innovation and supported by the Greater Tucson Economic Council.

OZ Optics is hoping to expand its presence and sales in the United States and international marketplace by taking advantage of expanding opportunities in the military and defense sectors, especially after losing business in the collapse of the telecommunications bubble. In November 2004, OZ Optics was added to the Central Contractor Registry of the United States, a requirement for any company that wants to do business with the United States and compete on government contracts.

Marcelo Grinfeld, VP of business development at OZ Optics, said that, in addition to the strong research and business ties between Ottawa and Tucson, Tucson’s proximity to California, where OZ has many customers, was a major factor in deciding to open a facility at the UA Technology Park.

According to John Grabo, director of marketing and international programs at the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park, OZ Optics has said their employment projections for the Tucson site are between 15 and 100 individuals over a three-year period, depending on the economic conditions and the success of their business.

“The goal set by both Tucson and Ottawa is to create an economic highway between the two geographic regions that grows the business activity and international presence of both regions,” Grabo said. “For us, we hope to expand the reach of the Park and the companies located here.”

He sees OZ Optics tapping into the strategic business relationships the Technology Park has built not only in Tucson, but also in Mexico, Manchester (United Kingdom), Berlin (Germany) and Israel. In turn, the Technology Park sees Tucson firms using Ottawa as their Canadian entry point when looking at business opportunities in Canada.

“We have linked two world-class optics cities for bi-lateral economic growth,” said Grabo.

Canadian trade commissioner David Von Behren says that “the optics connection” between Canada and Tucson is so strong that it prompted the opening of the Canadian Consulate Trade Office in Tucson just over a year ago for the express purpose of assisting U.S. companies interested in doing business in Canada.

Thanks to OZ and other laser and optics firms that have settled into Tucson over the last decade (currently around 150 laser/optics firms have facilities in Tucson), the UA Technology Park is able to employ talented University of Arizona graduates (the university is spending $17.5 million to expand its Optical Sciences Center doctoral program) and use the credibility of these companies to attract talented individuals in the defense and biomedical sectors of the photonics industry to Tucson. At present, the Park has more than 2 million square feet of developed space and 7000 employees working in 30 high-technology companies, including IBM, Raytheon, CITI Group (IT-intensive operations), NP Photonics, and engenio (formerly LSI Logic).

-Gail Overton

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