A manufacturer of industrial sapphire crystals is planning to open its headquarters for U.S. operations, in Washougal, at the former site of Union Carbide and Saint-Gobain Crystals & Detectors.
B Crystal, which also manufactures fabricated sapphire products for high-tech industries, will operate from 750 S. 32nd St.
B Crystal is a separate entity of Baltic Crystal, a manufacturer and supplier of materials made of monocrystalline sapphire for optical electronics and other sectors.
Baltic Crystal, based in Riga, Latvia, has acquired the physical assets of Sapphire Materials Company, LLC. The $3.6 million acquisition includes the purchase of SMC’s 53,600-square foot sapphire growing manufacturing facility, located in the Columbia Manufacturing & Technology Center in the Port of Camas-Washougal Industrial Park.
B Crystal plans to renovate the current manufacturing facility and expects to be operational by the first quarter of 2016.
The first phase is expected to include the creation of 14 jobs, with an eventual increase to up to 70 total jobs on site once the expansion is complete.
“All, but two or three of the initial 14 positions, are expected to be local hires,” said Kimberly Pincheira, director of communications and strategic partnerships for the Columbia River Economic Development Council.
Access to a highly skilled workforce in this area was an important factor in the decision to locate in this area.
“We will provide training for some of our new employees, but we need to be able to hire highly skilled personnel with specific scientific knowledge,” Andrey Mikhaylov, president of B Crystal, said in a press release.
He said there is a growing U.S. domestic market for sapphire products, especially in the electronic and defense industries, and accessing the existing industry clusters in the state was another contributing factor in the company’s decision to locate in this area.
“Washington State has a huge aerospace industry in which sapphire products can be used, so we see a great supply chain opportunity in the region,” Mikhaylov said. “There has historically been a strong crystal-growing industry here in Clark County. We intend to help revive it.”
Industrial sapphire products can be used in a number of applications, including LED lighting, protective coating for products and use in the semiconductor industry.
“Foreign direct investment in our community is a key component for long-term economic health,” said CREDC President Mike Bomar.
Clark County specifically was chosen for the B Crystal location, largely due to the suitability of the existing SMC manufacturing facility and the access to low-cost power, which is the largest part of the total industrial sapphire manufacturing cost.
“The extremely low electric power rates in Clark County was one of the main contributing factors in our decision to locate in Washougal,” said Mikhaylov. “The low production cost allows us to be competitive in the world market.”
The national average for industrial electric rates is 56 percent higher than in Clark County, while average rates for San Jose, California are 120 percent higher, based on U.S. Energy Information Administration data. Germany’s average industrial electric rates are 149 percent higher than the U.S. average, while Japan’s rates are 156 percent higher and the United Kingdom’s rates are 104 percent higher, according to the International Energy Agency.
Washougal Mayor Sean Guard thanked the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association and CREDC, particularly Denise McCarty, for working on this project.
“The City of Washougal is very excited about B Crystal purchasing the property with firm plans to move forward, bringing more family-wage jobs and investment to Washougal,” Guard said. “Incrementally, we are working to bring good jobs and employment stability into our community. We look forward to a great, long-term partnership with B Crystal.”