Author: David Roeder
Capitalizing on growth in 5G technology and with support from state and local officials, a startup company called viaPhoton has opened a fiber-optics factory in Aurora, where it is hiring 30 people and hopes to add another 200 employees in three to five years.
CEO Baber Abbas said the company will supply data centers and mobile communications companies throughout the Midwest. Its presence here will help Illinois expand access to 5G services statewide, he said.
State officials and the company announced its launch Monday. Backed by $5 million in seed money, viaPhoton operates from a 25,000-square-foot building at 2640 White Oak Circle.
“We are a startup company, but all members of the executive team have more than 20 years’ experience in the industry,” Abbas said.
He said his operation will help customers source fiber optic material close to their own operations and not rely on companies overseas; 90% of that material comes from outside the U.S., Abbas said.
In a prepared statement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker praised viaPhoton for “building on the state’s strong legacy of utilizing technology to expand access to needed services while prioritizing community investment and job creation.”
Abbas said the company is using a state income tax credit for research and development, as well as state assistance for job training and apprenticeships. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, as well as workforce centers in DuPage and Kane counties, have helped with recruitment and designing training programs.
He said he selected Aurora because of the region’s storied links to manufacturing, plus its access to talent and transportation.
The state has enacted a tax credit for data centers, a business targeted for growth because of the rollout of 5G telecommunications. Facebook is building a data center in DeKalb and Stack Infrastructure is expanding data operations in Elk Grove Village.
Michael Negron, acting director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said viaPhoton “will help shore up the supply chain of fiber optics – supporting our own goals of creating digital access for every community in Illinois.”
Abbas said the coronavirus, by increasing demand for internet communications, should hasten the switch to 5G capability. In turn, that will lead to more orders for fiber optics, he said.
His company’s first shipments should be ready Aug. 3, Abbas said.