Synthetic diamond factory set to move into Gresham this summer
Gresham will become home to a shinier kind of company this summer, as Element Six, a synthetic diamond manufacturer, moves into the Gresham Vista Business Park with a new $94 million facility.
Element Six is headquartered in London and part of the De Beers Group. The 7.64 acres of property on Stark Street sold for $2.35 million and will fill Lot 7 in the Gresham Vista Business Park.
Melanie Mesaros, Port of Portland's media relations manager, said Element Six will compliment the cluster of advanced manufacturing businesses already in Gresham.
Construction is set to start this summer and will wrap up in August , 2019. The plant will be fully operational by January 2021, said Element Six Senior Marketing Executive Jez Fernandez. Element Six expects to hire 60 full-time engineers, technicians and other staff.
The roughly 60,000-square-foot plant will house advanced technologies or "super materials" that produce synthetic diamonds chemically identical to naturally mined diamonds.
Because of their strong and sharp composition, synthetic diamonds have a variety of industrial applications. Element Six's everyday products that utilize the diamonds include surgical tools, electric tools and speakers.
However, Fernandez said the Gresham plant will predominantly produce lab-grown diamonds for Lightbox Jewelry. Last month, the De Beers group announced its plans open the synthetic diamond jewelry company, which will begin selling products in fall 2018.
According to the Lightbox website, the lab grown diamonds start at $800 per carat, compared to roughly $4,000 per carat for naturally mined diamonds. Fernandez said the Lightbox diamonds will initially only be available in the U.S.
Inside the Gresham plant, a meticulous process to create the diamonds will take place.
To begin, a piece of lab-grown diamond is placed into a plasma reactor which is heated to over 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the plasma is mixed with carbon atoms, small crystals grow for 400 to 500 hours before the stone is polished and cut, according to the Lightbox website.
Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said Gresham welcomes Element Six as part of the city.
"Gresham is becoming a hub for advanced industries, and we're happy to welcome the new jobs and investment," Bemis said.
Elizabeth Coffey, a communications manager with the city of Gresham, said the area offers a skilled workforce from around the area. In addition to more living wage jobs, Coffey said the year-long construction of the building will bring labor and materials to the Gresham market.
Because the process to create synthetic diamonds uses a great deal of energy, Janet LaBar, Greater Portland, Inc. CEO, said Element Six was drawn to the Northwest's low power cost.
Element Six's aggressive schedule was aided by the 66-day land-use review process, Fernandez said, which means clean technology and professional services companies can process a request to settle in Gresham in 66 days or less.
Janet LaBar said Element Six's advanced manufacturing capabilities helps confirm the greater metro area is a manufacturing hub.
"These sectors have been growing for some time and this really solidifies that," LaBar said.
The global visibility that comes with housing Element Six, LaBar said, will encourage other global companies to work with the Portland area.
"This is just another way for Portland to say we are a destination for investment," LaBar said.