Portland wins SoloPower; 481 jobs expected

Portland wins SoloPower; 481 jobs expected »Play Video
Portland Mayor Sam Adams, right, and the CEO of SoloPower, Tim Harris, officially announced Friday that the company that makes solar panels will build its plant in Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A California company that makes solar panels was leaning toward building its $340 million plant in Wilsonville but now says it will built it in Portland.

SoloPower says it will add more than 450 jobs at its new factory in North Portland in the Rivergate Industrial Park. The company says each of its 481 local workers will earn an average of $51,000 a year.

It plans to break ground in July and start production next year.

The area in North Portland where the company will build its factory is an enterprise zone. That gives the city the ability to offer tax abatements, and as part of the deal, SoloPower stands to save more than $16 million in taxes. The city also agreed to guarantee $5 million for a $20 million state loan. There are also additional incentives still to be determined.

“This is the hub that we are seeking to create around clean electricity,” Portland Mayor Sam Adams said Friday during a City Hall announcement. “As I’ve said before, Houston is known as the capital of fossil fuel technology, fossil fuel industry and energy. Portland seeks to be known as the nation’s hub for clean energy.”

Adams said he wants to push this deal through next week. He’s calling for the City Council to approve emergency ordinances on Wednesday afternoon.

While Portland offered a better deal, it’s not why Wilsonville lost out on the jobs.

Just four months ago, Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said in a news release how proud he was that SoloPower was moving to a former Nike distribution center in his town.

But the company began looking elsewhere after some locals didn’t like the city’s $11 million incentive offer and wanted to put the issue to a vote.

“We’re on a very strict timeline to bring the manufacturing facility up and so we just couldn’t afford the uncertainty and delay,” said SoloPower’s CEO Tim Harris.

“I am disappointed, and I think the actions by a small group of people in Wilsonville has caused detriment,” said Knapp. “I think it was inappropriate and shortsighted.”

Wilsonville resident, John Ludlow, led the pushback, saying he wanted a vote about spending tax money. He made no apologies Friday for SoloPower’s decision to bolt to Portland; in fact, he said he sees it as a victory.

“We didn’t want to give them $11 million for free either and that’s the bottom line. We’re tired of paying corporate welfare here,” he said. “I’m sad to see jobs leave but there’s jobs right behind it and we don’t have to pay them.”

Another company is considering moving into that former Nike distribution center.