Sahuarita is preparing to break ground on the SAMTEC technology center though it has no tenants signed on yet.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded the town a $3 million grant two years ago to build the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center. The town projected the facility would produce 75 new jobs, retain 31 more, and generate $500,000 in private investment. The town had anticipated Control Vision and Hydronalix as key tenants at the time, but Control Vision has since declined and Hydronalix has still not made a decision whether to sign a lease.
Hydronalix, founded in 2009, is a Sahuarita-based company specializing in maritime robotic technology. CEO Tony Mulligan had expressed concerns about potential operating costs at SAMTEC in an email to the town in September. He cited drive time between Sahuarita and Tucson, where he has parts dealers, as an increasing expense that would rise as the company grows.
While Hydronalix has spread into Tucson, the company maintains headquarters in Sahuarita, near Duval Mine Road and La Cañada Drive. They have expanded its facility there and has no plans to leave town as of now, Mulligan said.
Victor Gonzalez, Sahuarita's economic development director, said a contractor will be selected at the Aug. 26 Town Council meeting, and construction will begin shortly after.
One of the conditions set by the EDA grant is that the project's groundbreaking needs to happen about 24 months from the date it was awarded, he said. This month marks 24 months, but Gonzalez said there are no issues as the town is roughly within the EDA's window and construction is coming soon.
The building designs — from plumbing, electrical and structural — are all set and the town can begin construction as early as September or October. The building is expected to be completed about six to eight months after construction begins, Gonzalez said.
SAMTEC will essentially be a shell building and individual spaces will be fitted after a lease is signed based on the tenant's needs. Although the two key companies the town had counted on signing have not done so, construction will go forward.
"The project fulfills for us an economic development goal and that's to develop employment centers," Gonzalez said. "And one of the things that we're missing here in Sahuarita is a facility like SAMTEC, right? If you have a company that wants to locate in Sahuarita, where are they going to locate? We have commercial centers, we have retail centers, we have land, but we don't have industrial types of facilities."
Having SAMTEC completed and ready to lease space will allow the town to attempt to attract companies and jobs. The town has also contracted with CBRE, a national commercial real estate firm, to find manufacturing companies.
"Through services and through their marketing efforts (we can) promote and market the facility and identify prospects, tenants and so forth," Gonzalez said. "Right now, we have the property listed on CBRE's real estate site, similar to Zillow where you find residential homes for sale or rent."
The town purchased the 3.76-acre SAMTEC site from Rancho Sahuarita Management for $412,500 more than two years ago, which included a veto clause in the agreement over the final design. Last year, the town and Rancho Sahuarita had a disagreement over the design of the building, which was settled in October.
Sahuarita officials and representatives from Rancho Sahuarita have come to an agreement for the design of the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center (SAMTEC) and are ready to move forward with the next step to bringing the tech park to fruition.
"We met various times with Rancho to come to an agreement on a design, which we did at the end of the day," Gonzalez said. "The building is designed to really compliment the greater design and aesthetics of Rancho, but also it's designed in a way that it's still somewhat kind of contemporary."
With designs settled and the town ready to select its contractor to begin the work there are no concerns left at this time that could hinder or cancel construction which puts Sahuarita in a good position to compete for job growth with other parts of the region, Gonzalez said.
"There's a lot of projects out there and employment growth and companies relocating to the area as well as statewide," he said. "And so we feel by having this facility we can at least be part of the conversation, or be in the conversation, when a company is looking to move into the area."