Gwinnett County helps land major expansion by OFS

The Gwinnett County Planning and Development team and the Office of Economic Development played a key role in helping land a multi-million-dollar expansion project by the fiber optics industry-leader OFS in Norcross.

OFS announced they are spending $139 million and creating 200 new jobs at their Norcross and Carrolton facilities. The company plans to nearly double its 2016 optical fiber manufacturing capacity by 2019 and to increase its fiber cable manufacturing capacity.

To help meet increased demand for optical fiber products from its customer base, OFS needed to ramp up its capability quickly and needed a rapid turnaround through the permitting process. The Gwinnett Economic Development team worked closely with the Planning and Development and other county offices to ensure OFS got the paperwork it needed in an expedited manner. OFS, part of Japan-based Furukawa Electric Company, a multi-billion dollar leader in optical communications, was also exploring locations outside Georgia.

Ashish Gandhi, senior vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer for OFS, said there were several factors that contributed to the decision, including cost of materials, power, quality of the employee talent pool, and Georgia’s overall economy. But the ease of working with Gwinnett County helped seal the deal.

“They were very supportive,” Gandhi said. “The decision-making by them was very quick.  We had a rezoning and that was done quickly. They were very responsive.”

The County’s Planning and Development Department routinely meets with businesses and developers in pre-submittal meetings as they work on their plans to help anticipate and solve potential problems. Then, when the plans are ready, the P&D staff assembles all the relevant departments in one room to do final review and, hopefully, approval.

“They brought all the relevant players to the table, the Fire Department, the permitting folks,” Gandhi said. “It was a well-coordinated team. They understood what we were doing. Gwinnett County definitely has a pro-business philosophy, but they are prudent. They are fair and reasonable.”

 The Economic Development Department collaborated with Partnership Gwinnett, a County government and Chamber of Commerce group, and with the state Economic Development Department on the project. The Gwinnett Economic Development Department also helped do some of the necessary research on the project.

“They were effective advocates for us,” Gandhi said.

Roman Dakare, Gwinnett County Economic Development manager, said that OFS continues to be an important company in Gwinnett.

“Its development of advanced technology, unique product offering, and place in the global business landscape make it a great company to have in the County,” Dakare said. “As OFS evaluated its shifting expansion needs, we were happy to work with them on a tight timeline, and we are excited they will grow their operations here in Gwinnett.”

Adena Fullard, plan review manager for Planning and Development, said getting the necessary approvals was a collaborative effort between OFS and several County departments.

“It was really exciting and fascinating project,” Fullard said. “Procedurally, they embraced the pre-submittal meeting process so we were able to avoid any surprises, which can cost money and cause delays. They knew who to call when they had questions. When the designers submitted their plans, we were prepared for what they were doing so the approval went really quickly. It was a team effort by multiple County staff all working together to make this happen. We were looking at it from ‘What’s best for the product and what’s best for the county’ and we were successful on both counts.”