Texas manufacturer commits $73M to scaling U.S. fiber optic

Superior Essex Communications will pour $73 million into scaling its manufacturing capacity and equipment at its Brownwood, Texas plant to help meet surging demand for outside plant (OSP) fiber optic cables, drop fiber and hybrid cables as federal broadband expansion programs continue to roll out.

The investment will ensure the availability of OSP fiber and hybrid cables as demand increases with programs being executed at the state levels and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) gearing up to allocate $42.5 billion in Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding at the end of this month.  

“These upgrades are focused on various customers and projects that we support today as this will increase the amount of OSP Fiber and Hybrid cables to ensure the cables are ready for deployment when they are ready,” said Superior Essex Communications VP Brian Ensign.

The expansion also supports other federal programs that aim to address supply chain and domestic economy concerns, such as Build America, Buy America (BABA). Superior Essex Communications claims the expansion investments create 170 new jobs in and around the Texas plant, and convert some existing jobs from legacy OSP copper cable manufacturing to focus on optical fiber cables.

“First and foremost is our pride and investment into our employees to expand the amount of cables produced here in America. This will ensure these products are available here in America to be installed in America where quality and availability are maintained at the highest levels,” Ensign told Fierce.

“We plan to attract new people within the local communities and outreach along with targeted recruiting efforts. We understand the workforce is ever changing and we strive to be at the forefront.”

Superior Essex Communications promised the investment will incorporate green building practices such as Power over Ethernet (PoE) lighting and the use of repurposed equipment.

As part of its MissionNext program the company is “exploring various methods of reducing [its] carbon impact and reduction of energy,” Ensign said. One of the strategies in the planning and design stage is the deployment of solar power with onsite battery storage to support times of power interruptions to ensure the factory can maintain an acceptable level of operation.

“Specific to our Brownwood, TX location the feasibility study and design recommendation to ensure greater than 30% of overall power usage are currently underway. The next steps and timeline for deployment will be determined from these exercises,” he added.

According to Ensign the upgrades related to this investment are expected to be completed by the end of the second quarter in 2024 “with various stages completed along the way.”