By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
The future is looking bright for the First Solar facility proposed in Lake Township. The Wood County Commissioners voted Thursday to grant a tax abatement request that would relieve the company from 100 percent of its eligible property and inventory taxes for 15 years.
The solar panel company has plans for a $400 million facility, with 1.2 million square feet of space, and 500 new jobs.
“It’s nice to see this major project go forward here in Wood County,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said during the meeting with First Solar officials and the county commissioners.
The new plant will be located at the southeast corner of Tracy Road and Ohio 795 – just down the road from the existing First Solar facility in Perrysburg Township.
Lake Township officials have already signed off on the tax abatement, and the two school districts affected by the tax break have already made deals with First Solar.
The agreements will result in Lake School District getting an additional $898,000 a year – enough to allow the school board to forgo the next levy planned for the ballot. Penta Career Center will receive $72,000 a year.
In addition to creating 500 new jobs at the site, another 500 construction workers are expected to be employed to build the facility.
Clarence Hertzfeld, plant manager for the Perrysburg operations, said the new site will have an estimated employee payroll of $30 million.
“It will essentially double our output capacity,” Hertzfeld said of the new location paired with the existing site.
First Solar’s main customers are large commercial and industrial power producers.
“We compete in all the global markets,” Hertzfeld said.
Jay Lake, who handles First Solar manufacturing workforce development, said the company hopes to leverage more of the “great workforce” in this region.
Wood County Planning Director Dave Steiner was asked by the commissioners to weigh in on the tax break request. Steiner said he saw no problems with the request.
“They’ve been a very good corporate citizen,” Steiner said of First Solar.
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw welcomed First Solar’s expansion plans.
“We are certainly glad you decided to stay here,” she said.
Hertzfeld said First Solar appreciates the county’s cooperation in making the new facility possible.
“We’re extremely excited about what we’re endeavoring here,” he said.