US manufacturing jobs return as AT&T launches Corning plant in Arizona

exclusive: The private sector creates the first Optical fiber manufacturing facility In the western US where industry is trying to keep up with record demand to expand broadband access and bring jobs home.

Corning, in partnership with AT&T, will make the announcement Tuesday from the site of the future plant in Gilbert, Arizona, which is expected to be operational by 2024. The project will expand manufacturing capacity for optical cable, which is critical to Internet access and 5G.

The move would bring manufacturing jobs home, a goal on both sides of the political aisle, as the US economy tries to keep pace with competitors in an array of technology. Japan and China are the largest exporters of optical fibers, according to Latest data Followed by the Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Companies say demand for the product has surged during the pandemic after supply chain problems caused short-term shortages and more Americans began working remotely. Today, about three-quarters of adults in the United States have access to broadband Internet at home, according to Pew Research Center.

“It’s the last mile and that’s the hard part,” John Stankey, CEO, AT&T He told FOX Business in an exclusive joint interview with CEO of Corning Wendell Weeks. “There has been a tremendous amount of basic infrastructure that has been put in place. Now we have to get out into the homes. We have to get out to those small businesses that haven’t taken advantage of the fiber.”

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Corning builds a trench of fiber-optic cable

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GLW Corning Inc. 34.52 +0.43 + 1.26%

The project is expected to create 250 jobs, but that is far less than what experts say the industry needs to support its long-term goals. Corning estimates that 850,000 additional jobs should be created through 2025 to install fiber optic cable once it is manufactured and ready for deployment.

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Picture showing the inside of a fiber optic cable. (iStock / iStock)

“This new facility will provide additional optical cabling capacity to meet the industry’s record demand for fast and reliable connectivity,” Stanke said in a previous statement on Tuesday. “We’re also working with Corning to create training programs to equip the next generation of technicians with the skills to build networks that will expand access to high-speed Internet for millions of Americans.”

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John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, speaks at MediaLink Presents: MASS-terclass: The New Age of Mass Personalization panel on the Times Center Stage during 2016 Advertising Week New York on September 28, 2016, in New York City. (John Lamparsky/Getty Images for New York Advertising Week/Getty Images)

The project is part of a nearly $500 million private commitment from Corning to expand access to broadband. It comes amid a renewed focus on Americans’ Internet access, after the bipartisan infrastructure law passed last year earmarked $65 billion in new broadband spending.

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“This is the technology we’re driving,” Weeks added. “Our job is to make sure we have enough capacity in the ground to serve the growing demand. That’s what this ad is all about.”

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