Mar 29, 2011
First Solar, Inc. (Nasdaq: FSLR) is returning to its roots with anew 250-megawatt photovoltaic manufacturing facility planned for Mesa,Ariz., near its Tempe headquarters. And it looks like Maricopa Countymay welcome the company back with as much as $20 million in incentives.
The new factory is part of First Solar’s efforts to remain one of—ifnot the—highest producing manufacturers of photovoltaics in the world.
Last week, the company announced that it broke ground on a 250-megawatt photovoltaic manufacturing plant in Vietnam. Both facilities could be further expanded, said First Solarspokesperson Alan Bernheimer. In all, the company plans to rampproduction capacity to 2.9 gigawatts (2,900 megawatts) of photovoltaicmodules by the end of 2012.
The county’s board of supervisors will decide March 30, whether itshould approve the incentive package that the county manager worked outwith First Solar.
The package would offer up to $20 million contingent on First Solarreaching certain employment and financial milestones, said ChrisBradley, Maricopa County’s director of business strategies and healthcare programs.
“There’s no deal until and if the board approves the contract,” Bradley said.
“The Maricopa County incentive plan is tied to job creation,” saidBernheimer. “First Solar expects to create the jobs [600 ongoingmanufacturing jobs], and in return, the County expects to provide theincentives.”
Under the proposed contract, First Solar would have to bring a total of 4,800 high-paying jobs, with an averagesalary of $48,575, to the county over the next 10 years, Bradley said.
“The median wage is about $34,000 here,” said Bradley. “This wholething is pursuant to the board of supervisors’ strategic goals toincrease the income of Maricopa County and to increase the share ofemployment in exporting industries.”
The deal also is contingent on First Solar’s capital investments andthat it will export—out-of-state—80 percent of the modules made at theplant, according to Bradley.
“There’s an assumption that there will be $1.6 billion in capitalinvestment made by First Solar that would hit the property tax roles ofMaricopa County,” he said.
No payment of funds will happen until they make capital investments.
“Funds will be dispersed in increments based on [meeting certainlevels] up to 20, in $1 million payments,” Bradley said. For each $1million payout, First Solar must create 240 jobs and make about $80million in capital investments.
The county is estimating that it would recover the $20 million in new county general fund tax revenue within about nine years, according toBradley. That’s less than the 10 years that First Solar has to reach the milestones.