Salem, Hillsboro got in 'the zone' for solar jobs
By Andy Giegerich
Business Journal staff writer
Salem lured Sanyo Solar with the help of an enterprise zone.
When Wilsonville residents questioned whether the city should provide $11 million in tax incentives to solar panel manufacturer SoloPower Inc., SoloPower decided to take its facility elsewhere.
And as the company begins negotiating incentive terms with the city of Portland, other cities that provided incentives to solar companies say the gamble is well worth it.
Economic development leaders in Salem and Hillsboro said incentives granted to Sanyo Solar of Oregon LLC and SolarWorld AG have so far generated as many as 1,200 well-paying jobs. The officials said they wouldn’t hesitate to offer the incentives, which come partly in the form of enterprise zones, again.
“It’s absolutely been a success: We’re happy to have Sanyo, and we’re working to recruit other companies to our energy and technology center,” said Annie Gorski, a city of Salem economic development project manager, in referring to the city’s sustainability-oriented enterprise zone.
Enterprise zones are a state-created offering intended to encourage industrial investment. Businesses in enterprise zones that invest in new plants or equipment qualify for tax abatements on the investment, an incentive that can be worth millions, especially to capital-intensive manufacturing plants.
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In Salem and Hillsboro, the programs have led to jobs that pay in the $50,000 range annually to hundreds of workers. In exchange, the companies have met tight timelines for starting production and promised to hire workers who live near the enterprise zones.
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