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Lasermaker seeks deal in Pasco

A Pennsylvania corporation is considering building a $2.5-million manufacturing facility near Trinity Communities to build high-tech laser components.

The company, II-VI Inc. (pronounced Two-Six) of Saxonburg, Pa., would consolidate the operations of its Port Richey and Tarpon Springs subsidiaries at the Mitchell Bypass site. Up to 190 people eventually would be employed there.

But first the company wants something from the state.

Money.

On the company's behalf, Pasco County commissioners Tuesday approved an economic incentive grant application to Enterprise Florida to obtain up to $661,000 for road and utility improvements at the proposed facility.

Enterprise Florida is a public-private partnership that, on July 1, took over many of the duties formerly handled by the Florida Department of Commerce.

Jim Martinelli, II-VI's chief financial officer, said that grant and a separate $1.5-million low-interest loan from the state are necessary before the company would agree to locate at Trinity.

"We like the community and would like to make the move," he said. "But we're looking at several alternatives. This alternative is dependent on the grant and loan."

II-VI purchased Virgo Optics of Port Richey for $2.4-million in December 1994 and the Lightning Optical Corp. of Tarpon Springs in February 1996.

Both subsidiaries, which make laser components, employ 55 to 60 workers. If the consolidation occurs, 20 new jobs will be created in the next year, Martinelli said. Within five years, up to 75 total new jobs would be created _ many of those high-paying technical or professional positions.

"Our long-term plans are very optimistic," he said.

Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher said he was confident the state would allocate at least part of the grant funding. He did not have information about the loan.

Enterprise Florida and commerce officials did not return calls for comment.

According to Pasco's grant application, II-VI would build the Trinity facility in two phases. During the first phase, II-VI would build a 40,000-square-foot, campus-styled complex. Construction could begin as early as October.

The company initially would employ 115 people at an average wage of $34,329 annually, the application says. Within three to five years, a 25,000-square-foot expansion at the site is planned.

Martinelli said both subsidiaries have revenues of about $13-million. He said annual growth is projected at 20 percent to 30 percent.

Over the last two years, for example, II-VI's total revenues have jumped from $18.7-million to $27.8-million, he said.

Martinelli said II-VI, which specializes in infrared laser optics, is also considering the consolidation on extra land it owns at its Tarpon Springs facility or at its Pennsylvania headquarters.

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