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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remember the SoloPower hype: 500 jobs

The sweetheart deal that's bringing a solar panel manufacturing plant to somewhere in north Portland -- they're apparently still not saying where -- goes before the Portland Development Commission board today. Here's the car-hating PDC CEO's report on the city's part of the transactions. It's interesting how "at least 140 permanent full time positions" quickly morphs into "will create an estimated 481 jobs," and when the guy really gets going, he conveniently rounds it all off to "up to 500 jobs."

We hope the dreams come true, but if the past performance of the city on economic development is any indicator, something quite modest is about to happen here, at significant public expense.

We also wonder what the environmental impact of this manufacturing plant is going to be. It may be producing "green" energy for the world, but it will fascinating to see what it produces for its neighbors, whoever they may turn out to be.

Comments (19)

Solar panels will come out of China. It won't be cost effective to manufacture them here. This is just more expensive green window dressing for CoP.

"they're apparently still not saying where"

I thought it was some place in Rivergate in N Portland by Kelly Point.

They've learned the shibboleth, "green/sustainable". Heck, if Earl/Merk/Ronny can throw (erm, grant) a weak idea like ReVolt $5M+ and brag about it, then throwing tax credits at something like SoloPower is not a problem. It's OPM (future generations tax base) money.

I'm holding my breath lest the Music Man sells Sam on the green features of band instruments.

These guys all have simian IQs when it comes to anything with business or technology.

Mr. Grumpy, we're running out of jobs to outsource, so we need to create more here in order to send them to China in a couple of years.

I wonder how much this comes out to in terms of public subsidy per employee, using the real (we hope) 140 number instead of the pulled-from-outer-space 500 number.

What is the carbon footprint comparison between using an established warehouse in Wilsonville versus building a brand new facility in Rivergate? Certainly there is a huge construction carbon footprint that is being overlooked...

Here's a sidebar counter suggestion for you, Jack: number of jobs promised in public promos like this versus jobs actually created so far.

Other White Meat, here is an indicator of the number of jobs created so far.

Multnomah County jobs:

2000: 453k
2010: 421k
Job growth: -7%

Population growth during that period: 10%

Mr. Grumpy:

Thin film solar is probably cheaper to make here on a delivered basis to US consumers than in China. It is not labor intensive like silicon wafers.

The real downside is the cadmium thin film uses. It is not super dangerous and I have worked with it before, but it is still a carcinogen. You do not want cadmium vapor or effluents escaping into the neighborhoods. And it does not break down with age.

Didn't Portland subsidize Vestas move to Northwest Portland? Barrons May 23rd issue has an article about the headwinds for Vestas. One of them is declining government subsidies for wind turbines. And without the subsidies they don't work financially.

So when will Vestas close up their Portland shop?

3 things.

It doesn't say what the PDC cut is. As with every Urban Renewal/TIF gig the PDC gets a slice of the borrowed TIF dollars to pay their crack staff. (In a 5 year budget for SoWa the PDC raked in $18 million, all borrowed).
Does this SoloPower deal provide the means to avoid some of the layoffs at the PDC?

"SoloPower’s technology and market niche have undergone extensive due diligence as a requirement tied to approval of their ODEO SELP and U.S. Department of Energy loans"

Really? Due diligence privided by SoloPower?

"Construction on the first manufacturing line is expected to begin during
July 2011
Site/Project Map: TBD"

How do they begin construction on the production line in July when they have no site or building yet?

"at least 140 permanent full time positions" quickly morphs into "will create an estimated 481 jobs," and when the guy really gets going, he conveniently rounds it all off to "up to 500 jobs."

You need to read the fine print. This means 140 jobs at SoloPower, but 341 jobs at PDC for planners/ecodev people and Sam's office for people to generate the pap he tweets out.

Feel better now?

Please remember that these "jobs" are with a company that has yet to "manufacture" a "product" for "sale", with resultant "profits" that will pay for "private investment". Have you ever heard of vapor-ware?

Please remember that these "jobs" are with a company that has yet to "manufacture" a "product" for "sale",

c.f. ReVolt Technologies

Please remember that these "jobs" are with a company that has yet to "manufacture" a "product" for "sale", with resultant "profits" that will pay for "private investment". Have you ever heard of vapor-ware?

Or United Streetcar.

There's a real solar company, with real jobs, real products, and real revenues out in Hillsboro - SolarWorld.

More real than the PDX wish will ever be.

I agree with the other writers about vaporware.

Perhaps an exposé on past promises is in order to place things in context.


It's easy to piss on these claims, and you are absolutely right in your criticisms. But do you give thought to our modern world? These folks at pdc justify themselves with the idea that some jobs in a growing sector is better than nothing, and might lead to even more jobs. And make no mistake nothing is a very real possibility (see Detroit). This is the age of neoliberalism, where global capital goes where it wants and every place compete against each other for any jobs. What do you think Portland should do?

For openers, be a lot nicer to people like Tim Boyle.

...and nicer to Freightliner and Albina Fuel.

...and nicer to small businesses.

Do not charge to the extreme for permits.

Remember the enormous amount of money it cost that business re:
that pizza business that moved across the street on Belmont?

Stop with the streetcar and LIDS, I know a business owner who has said they will have to move first before they pay for a LID.

Stop creating more debt, especially on our unnecessary water bureau dream projects to give money to corporations.
85%/5 years water rates increase?... will that help bring businesses and jobs in here? More likely the globalists will want in to own our water and then charge as high as they want, is that the plan?

Stop with the pet projects taking money away from the children and schools and public safety matters?

The way things are going, we may end up as Detroit, and it will be as a result of elected officials and others around here making very bad decisions.

...and nicer to Greenbrier (Gunderson). In recent years they've opened up plants in Canada and Mexico and laid off Portlanders; all the while the River Plan sticks Gunderson with millions in costs while City Hall tries to "reclaim" the river for bicyclists instead of barge building and railcar manufacturing.

Freightliner, who has moved much of its business to South Carolina and to Mexico. Freightliner owns a bus-building company (Orion Bus) that could have provided steady, year-after-year work for hundreds since most bus manufacturers have a two year order backlog; instead Portland went after Streetcars, which has provided virtually nothing except empty promises. United Streetcar, in its three years or so of existance, has produced exactly ONE car - and it isn't running on the Portland Streetcar line.

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