A memorandum dated March 27, 2014 from Merrimack's Community Development Director to the Chairman of the Merrimack Planning Board provides details of GT Advanced Technologies' (GTAT) imminent expansion and renovation plans at their Merrimack, NH facility. The memorandum seeks acceptance and consideration of final approval of an application for site plan review to construct a 46,000 square foot building expansion, as well as the renovation of the existing 117,532 facility located at 243 and 247 Daniel Webster Highway. The plans were reviewed by Merrimack's planning board on April 1, 2014 and were unanimously approved 7-0-0. The project is targeting an "aggressive" completion date of fall 2014 according to the correspondence between Merrimack's Community Development Director and the Planning Board Chairman. The current Merrimack facility measures 117,532 square feet, the approved expansion would increase the facility to 163,532, which represents a 39% increase in the size over the existing facility. The memo also details GT's plans to shift the facility from an R&D and test facility to a manufacturing focused facility. The memo also cites that, "recent contacts at global manufacturing partners are driving the need to grow their current facility." My key takeaways from the memorandum are below:
- Recent contacts at global manufacturing partners are driving the need to grow their current facility.
- The existing facility will be renovated to support the company's manufacturing processes rather than the research and testing operation currently in use.
- The company would be making a significant investment in replacing their outdated and obsolete equipment and installing additional equipment to support their manufacturing use.
- The applicant is requesting the waiver to allow the plan to be recorded in the fall, following boundary survey and completion of an as built plan.
- Expansion will add 46,000 new square feet on top of 117,352 square feet of existing space.
According to GT's website the current Merrimack facility houses GT's ASF furnace and LED business along with R&D and pilot production functions for a number of new technologies and other advanced materials.
Our ASF furnace and LED business is located in Merrimack. Our Merrimack facility is also the location of our research and development and pilot production functions for a number of new technologies including Silicon Carbide and other advanced materials.
Below are some key excerpts from the March 27th memorandum:
GTAT has grown considerably from their start in Merrimack, and the recent contacts with global manufacturing partners are driving the need to grow their current facility to reflect the change to their operations from R&D focus to a more manufacturing focus.
GTAT is now seeking to expand the facility further by adding a 46,000 square foot addition. The new addition will house primarily administrative office and administrative functions of the company, while the existing facility will be renovated to support the company's manufacturing processes rather than the research and testing operation currently in use. In doing so, the company would be making a significant investment in replacing their outdated and obsolete equipment and installing additional equipment to support their manufacturing use.
GTAT is exploring several options on how to handle this shift, and among their current considerations is to expand on their facility here in Merrimack (other options are also being considered by the company). The project has a very aggressive time schedule to meet the demands of the company, and the application before you has been prepared within the last several weeks, whereas a similar type of application would typically take months for the design engineer to prepare a submission for site plan approval
The applicant is requesting the waiver to allow the plan to be recorded in the fall, following boundary survey and completion of an as built plan.
The video recording of GT's renovation and expansion plan presentation is available for viewing courtesy of the Merrimack TV website. GT's 1 hour and 25 minute site plan presentation is dated April 2, 2014.
According to the video presentation, Highpoint Engineering was brought in to begin planning the project approximately 2 weeks before the April 1, 2014 Merrimack Planning Board presentation. GT's Merrimack construction plans include building construction and interior work that will displace the administrative services functions. The expansion includes a 23,000 per floor additional that is 2 floors and measures 65 feet by 350 feet long. The converted and expanded manufacturing focused facility is expected to grow, create and ship sapphire products.
GT's exterior infrastructure improvements include installing up to 6 transformers and up to 1 to 2 cooling towers. Currently the site has 1 inert "Argon" tank and the plan is to add 2 inert gas tanks, one consisting of Helium and one consisting of Nitrogen. The additional inert gas tanks will measure approximately 8 to 10 feet in diameter by 15 to 18 feet in height. The facility will include backup generators and UPS systems, since GT can ill afford a nanosecond of power disruption while growing sapphire boules.
The facility will accommodate 307 parking spaces, up from 221 spaces currently at the location. The number of parking spaces was noted as adequate because the operation will include "swing shift" employees (24/7) operations. The internal shift from R&D to Manufacturing has already begun within the existing facility. The lead engineer from Highpoint Engineering has indicated that there has been a significant uptick in truck traffic over preceding two week period (3/17/14 to 4/1/14) to move equipment and prep the building for manufacturing. The equipment operation is lessening and the manufacturing process is increasing to grow boules, create a product and ship it out. The facility is expected to have 2 loading docks for shipping and receiving.
Merrimack Site Plan Images Below were taken from the Merrimack TV video presentation
46,000 square foot plant expansion is represented by the yellow sliver.
Front of Merrimack Facility
Loading and Receiving Docks
Disclosure: I am long GTAT. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: I have no plans to buy or sell any holdings over the next 72 hours.