APEX — The dirt has barely settled on ATI Industrial Automation’s last expansion, and the robotics-parts maker is preparing to double the size of its campus and workforce.
Apex-based ATI is expected to add up to 200 jobs over the next five years, bringing its number of employees to 400.
On Friday, the company broke ground for the first phase of new buildings at its Goodworth Drive campus before a crowd of employees, elected officials and economic development promoters.
It’s the second groundbreaking in two years, and a sign of the company’s continued growth. In 2011, ATI added 20,000 square feet of space and 50 jobs.
“Seems like only yesterday we were here for your last expansion,” said Apex Mayor Keith Weatherly. “I look forward to your next one.”
Weatherly credited companies such as ATI for helping to get Apex in the top 10 of Money Magazine’s Best Places to Live in America list this year.
To make room for more engineers, sales staff and manufacturing employees, the company is adding 70,000 square feet over two phases, for a total of 129,000 square feet.
Construction of the first phase is expected to be completed before the middle of next year, said Robert Little, chief executive of ATI.
The second phase will take three to five years to complete, he said.
Little said the company’s growth has been in part because of the diversity of customer applications both nationally and internationally. ATI products are used in robotics, aerospace, biomedical, electronics and government industries.
“Over 40 percent of our sales are exported to world markets. We expect that to increase,” Little said in a statement.
During the economic downturn, the aerospace and medical industries remained steady business for the parts makers. And the automotive industry recovered by 2009, Little said.
Anna Lea Moore with the N.C. Department of Commerce said ATI’s expansion shows that manufacturing is not dead.
“It doesn’t look like traditional manufacturing,” she said. “It it different, and it gives people the opportunity to stay in North Carolina and make a sustainable wage.”
The average ATI salary company-wide is about $55,000, and engineers make an industry average of about $85,000, Little said.
ATI was formed in 1989 out of a small office in Garner with a handful of employees. The company is headquartered in Apex but has other offices in Michigan, China and Brazil.
The company’s products can be found at NASA, Ford, Honda and Johns Hopkins University. ATI’s bestselling product is a robotic tool changer.
“Global pressure for ever-increasing manufacturing productivity continues to drive demand for our products. This expansion will carry us well into the future, enabling us to further reduce lead times while providing a superior level of quality,” company board Chairman Keith Morris said in a statement.
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