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Thorlabs: Thinking Global, Staying Local

Newton, NJ – October 1, 2010. Thorlabs, a New Jersey-based manufacturer of photonic tools and systems, today celebrated the start of construction on its new corporate headquarters with a ground breaking ceremony. Phase 1 of the construction, slated for completion in early 2012, will yield a new, three-story, 100,000 sq. ft. facility for the company’s manufacturing, R & D, and administrative offices. Subsequent construction phases will expand the company’s space to include approximately 300,000 sq. ft over a period of 7 – 10 years.

Founded in 1989 by Alex Cable, a former Bell Labs engineer, Thorlabs’ product portfolio has grown and diversified over the past 21 years. Today, it includes over 15,000 products in categories ranging from optics and optomechanical positioning components to sophisticated optical imaging systems. Customers include National Labs, universities, medical research facilities, commercial laser companies, the military, defense companies, and both large and small photonics manufacturers worldwide.

Since its founding, Thorlabs has experienced double digit growth annually, leading to a 2009 annual revenue of just over $125,000,000. Although Sussex County has always been home to the corporate headquarters, the company has expanded geographically over the years to include sales, manufacturing, and R&D offices in Germany, Sweden, the UK, Japan, and China. Today, Thorlabs employs approximately 650 people (300 in Newton) and manufactures 95% of its product offerings at one of its facilities (70% domestically, 25% internationally).

The location of the new production facility is a 6 acre brownfield, a long-abandoned former industrial site, right in the Newton downtown area. The Town of Newton grew up in the 1800’s as a manufacturing and railroad town, and the Company is excited to be leading a major redevelopment effort that will result in a cleaner, more energy efficient, high tech production facility. Along the way, the construction will also create over 250 temporary construction jobs.

The Town of Newton has been a key community partner in Thorlabs’ redevelopment effort, contributing to the success of the project in the form of a $4M Redevelopment Area Bond and PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes). This bond with Thorlabs, providing $4M in financing that is repaid over 30 years in lieu of property tax payments, was a bold event for a municipality, particularly given the uncertain economic times.

The Federal Government’s AARA program helped Thorlabs secure $6.175M in low interest loans as part of its redevelopment financing structure. In addition, the County of Sussex allocated 100% of its Recovery Zone Facility Bonds to the Thorlabs redevelopment Project, another indication of the community’s desire to keep Thorlabs headquartered in the county.

The commitment to locate the new facility in Newton was also a decision founder and CEO Alex Cable undertook, fully realizing the financial premium associated with building such a facility in a downtown setting. The Thorlabs redevelopment project has required significant financial commitment from Thorlabs and its owner, requiring an investment upwards of $16M to make the facility a reality. Alex’s commitment to Newton is unique, and he looks forward to Thorlabs being a significant presence in Sussex County that will help revitalize and reenergize Newton.

About Thorlabs:
Thorlabs, an active member of the Photonics community for 20 years, manufactures equipment for the photonics industry, including optomechanics, optics, laser diodes, tunable lasers, optical detectors, motion control equipment, and vibration isolation systems. In addition to core photonics equipment, we also provide system-level solutions such as our complete OCT, confocal, and ASOM imaging systems. With offices based in the US, UK, Germany, France, Sweden, Japan, and China, Thorlabs is focused on providing fast response to customer inquiries and same-day shipment for stock items.