A Finisar employee works in a VCSEL manufacturing area, wearing protective clothing to keep contaminants away from the product. Image credot: Apple

Apple has awarded $390 million to optical communications component maker Finisar as part of its latest boon from the $1 billion Advanced Manufacturing Fund. Apple fêted the award as a benefit for Finisar’s home town of Sherman, Texas.

Finisar manufactures vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), which are used in the production of the facial recognition technology in place on the iPhone X. Face ID, Animoji, Portrait mode photos, and AirPods all use VCSELs.

“VCSELs power some of the most sophisticated technology we’ve ever developed and we’re thrilled to partner with Finisar over the next several years to push the boundaries of VCSEL technology and the applications they enable,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, in a press release. “Technology is only as good as the people behind it, and Finisar is a company with a long history of putting its employees first and supporting the community it’s a part of. We’re extremely proud that our involvement will help transform another American community into a manufacturing powerhouse.”

The Advanced Manufacturing Fund is intended to benefit U.S.-based companies, and could be seen as a response to criticisms of Apple using overseas companies such as Foxconn Technology Group for iPhone production. The first recipient was Corning Incorporated, to which Apple awarded $200 million for glass processing in May.

President Donald Trump is among the public figures pushing for Apple to move at least some of its manufacturing business to the United States.

In June Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Trump to discuss “modernizing government.”

Finisar, headquartered in California, is particularly poised to benefit from the award. The company is anticipated to add 500 high-skilled workers at a formerly shuttered plant in Sherman, bringing the payroll for the Sherman plant and another plant in Allen, Texas to $65 million.

The Sherman plant is anticipated to begin shipping VCSELs to Apple in the second half of 2018.

“We’re excited to continue our innovation with Apple of a technology that has tremendous potential,” said Jerry S. Rawls, CEO of Finisar, in a press release. “When you combine our proven ability to consistently manufacture exceptional products with our new state-of-the-art Sherman facility, we’re confident we can achieve our shared goal of providing consumers with incredibly exciting features. Finisar has always been keenly aware it takes great people to power our work and that’s why we’re thrilled to be adding Sherman to our family.”

Foxconn’s announcement in July that it would open a plant in the United States was met with mixed responses in the ongoing conversation about American job creation. While Apple has made tentative comments toward shifting more aspects of iPhone production onshore in the last few years, cost remains the critical factor in the decision.

Real Time Digital Reporter