Apple announced Friday that it plans to invest $200 million in the Corning Gorilla Glass plant in Harrodsburg.
The investment will support the 65-year-old Corning plant’s research and development, equipment needs and glass process. While officials indicated the investment had the potential to bring more jobs to the 400-person factory, they did not say how many.
“It warms my heart that in the middle of beautiful horse country, the most advanced technology in glass in the world is happening right here,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, told a group of Corning employees on the plant floor Friday.
The money will come from Apple’s new Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which the company says will invest $1 billion with U.S.-based companies to develop innovative production and skilled jobs. Corning is the fund’s first investment, Apple said. The company spent $50 billion last year with more than 9,000 U.S. suppliers and manufacturers.
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“I’m looking forward to the next round of innovations,” said Corning CEO Wendell Weeks.
The iPhone originally had plastic on the surface, according to Williams, but when Steve Jobs kept it in his pocket, by the end of the day the surface was covered with scratches. Jobs, who was famous for demanding focus on design, quickly decided the surface needed to be glass instead of plastic for the first release of the phone.
With the deadline for the release rapidly approaching, Apple had a problem, Williams said. Every time Apple had tested the iPhone with glass, the glass broke when they dropped it. Corning’s Gorilla Glass came to the rescue and the Harrodsburg plant has been making the glass for iPhones ever since.
That partnership is not lost on U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he had nothing to do with Apple’s investment but came to the plant for the announcement to congratulate the company.
“The last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at in the morning is my iPhone,” McConnell said. “And unlike most people, I think of Harrodsburg, Kentucky.”
Talk of the investment had bubbled on Facebook profiles and local businesses in Harrodsburg, according to Mayor Eddie Long.
“It means a lot to everybody,” Long said. “Corning has been such a part of this community for years.”