The Orange County Commission voted 6-1 at its Tuesday meeting to recommend that the State of Florida Department of Economic Opportunity approve Apopka-based business Qorvo, a full service designer and producer of radio frequency products for the telecommunications market with revenues of nearly $3 billion and a market value in excess of $7 billion, as a qualified applicant for tax incentives under the Qualified Target Industry Program.
The economic development package would provide more than $500,000 in tax reductions to Qorvo.
Bryan Nelson was one of the six county commissioners who voted in favor of the tax credit for Qorvo.
"How exciting to see the growth potential of Qorvo," said Nelson. "From it's humble beginnings as a startup called Sawtek selling military chips to today adding 100 jobs paying an average of $80k for the cell phone market. It's Truly amazing."
On December 7th, The Apopka City Council voted 5-0 to approve an economic incentive package with the State of Florida and Orange County to assist Qorvo in the large expansion that will create more 100 new high-paying jobs within the city.
Qorvo aims to expand its Apopka facility with a three-story, 33,000-square-foot office building along with 7,000 square feet of lab space and parking. The company will create 100 or more new jobs in an effort to keep up with its expanding global business.
The total expansion investment is estimated at about $43 million. The average salary of those new jobs will be about $84,000 a year.
"The staff has been working on this for eight months in concert with Orange County and in concert with the state," said Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer at the December 7th City Council meeting. "We are now at a point where we can move forward and move forward aggressively. I'm thrilled with this project. We have a tremendous opportunity for a local business to create more jobs, create more capitol investment and create more intellectual brain power here in Apopka. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."
So what is Qorvo and where is it located?
Qorvo, Inc. is what you might call a low-profile business. Their offices are on Orange Blossom Trail, south of Apopka, and the building, the products and many of the people who design and build them have been in the same location for more than three decades.
Originally the business was named Sawtek. The facility was constructed in 1982 when Sawtek designed and produced Surface Acoustic Wave devices. These SAW devices, as they are called, are sub-miniature, electronic filters used in virtually every wireless product on the market for many years. These filters allow the desired radio signal to pass while filtering unwanted interference. The new iPhone alone has 80 of these acoustic filters in each handset.
In the early years, Sawtek produced filters for both military and commercial applications such as radar and cable television. In the early 90’s, the cellular telephone industry exploded and with it, Sawtek grew rapidly as well. As a result, the company went public in 1996 with a very successful IPO that generated more than $65 million for expansion. The best part of the story is that the employees owned more than 60% of the company through an Employee Stock Ownership Program. By 1998, the value to just several hundred employees was in excess of $800 million, much of which found its way into the economies of Apopka and Orange County.
Sawtek was acquired for $1.3 billion in July of 2001 by TriQuint Semiconductor, an Oregon-based manufacturer of semiconductor products for cell phones and other applications. At that time, Sawtek had the highest market value of any company headquartered in Central Florida. Subsequently, in 2015, TriQuint merged with RF Micro Devices based in North Carolina to form Qorvo, a full service designer and producer of radio frequency products for the telecommunications market with revenues of nearly $3 billion and a market value in excess of $7 billion.
The Apopka facility is home to more than 1,000 of Qorvo’s 8,000 employees and ships over 1 billion filters annually to electronics giants all over the world. The building that was once Sawtek is one of only two or three facilities in the world that are capable of producing these complex products.
The City of Apopka Public Information Office, Orange County Media Center, State of Florida Media Center and Gary Monetti (former President of Sawtek, Inc.) contributed to this report.
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