Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ted Strickland's Solyndra...And Biden Visited This Plant, too!

How about that Green Revolution, eh? How about the greatest Governor since ...well, anyone, Ted Strickland?

Seems Teddy didn't know much about choosing winners and losers, either. From the Toledo Blade:
Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC laid off about 40 people indefinitely at the beginning of January until changes to its production line are completed, a company official said Monday.

Michael Cicak, the company's chief executive officer and chairman of the board, would not say when the changes would be completed or when the laid-off employees could return to work.

"We have some technical people in here improving the efficiency of the assembly line," Mr. Cicak said, adding that the Perrysburg-based facility still has about 30 employees.

He said Willard & Kelsey has a little more than 80 employees when it's fully functional.

The start-up company has been plagued by a series of production and staffing delays since it was formed in 2008. It has received millions of dollars in government loans and tax breaks and has been toured by high-profile officials such as Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

Mr. Cicak said last week that the facility was to reopen Monday after a period of adjusting its inventory. A voice mail message on the company's main phone line said the same thing.

Only 15 cars were in the parking lot at 1:30 p.m. Monday. The office was devoid of activity, and the rows of desks were empty.

A tour of the production line and the changes being made to it were not made available to The Blade. As of early 2011, the company had received a $5 million research and development loan from the Ohio Department of Development, a $10 million loan from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, a $3.3 million job creation tax credit, and a $701,000 grant to provide training for 50 current and 250 new workers.

Attempts to reach state officials were unsuccessful because Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day.

Mr. Cicak previously has made sweeping claims for how many people the 262,000-square-foot plant along State Rt. 25 could employ. In February, 2011, the company said it planned to have 250 employees by the end of 2011. At the same time, Mr. Cicak said the company could produce 600 to 700 jobs in the next to two years and up to 4,000 in five or six years.

That was yesterday. Today, state officials are looking over what has to be labelled as another one of Strickland's Follies:
State officials said Tuesday they will visit Willard & Kelsey Solar Group next month to check on the status of the Perrysburg company, which recently laid off about half its work force.

The company, which is partially funded by millions of dollars in state loans and grants, has reduced its payments on two loans provided by the state.

The start-up company has failed to live up to the production and staffing goals that its executive leadership set when it was formed in 2008. It laid off 40 employees this month.

In addition to the state loans, the company was conditionally approved for more than $3 million in state tax breaks, but it has not generated enough jobs to become eligible for those breaks, said Daryl Hennessy, assistant chief of the business services division at the state Department of Development.

“They created some jobs in their annual report but not at the level they said they were going to,” Mr. Hennessy said.

The company employs a little more than 80 people when it’s fully operational, said Michael Cicak, chief executive officer and chairman of the board. The company is privately held and does not release its financial information.

Mr. Cicak said Willard & Kelsey laid off employees because the company’s only assembly line is undergoing changes to produce more efficient solar panels.

Funding for that assembly line initially came from a $5 million loan from the state Office of Air Quality Development Authority. Officials from that department are arranging an inspection of the assembly line in February to ensure that money was well spent, said Todd Nein, interim executive director of the Office of Air Quality Development Authority.
The $5 million is part of a $10 million loan that was partially disbursed in July, 2010. The rest of that money is set aside for the construction of a second assembly line, Mr. Nein said.

The first part of the loan has a two-year repayment plan, and Willard & Kelsey has been making payments on it, Mr. Nein said. Those payments recently were reduced and the state is working with the company to defer payments or create a longer payment schedule, he added.

Mr. Nein said the state has confidence in the company because its executives have experience with First Solar, one of the largest solar companies in the country.

The company also has reduced its payments on a $5 million loan from the Ohio Department of Development. It is paying about $7,800 a month on the interest of the loan, Mr. Hennessy said. That loan has a five-year timetable for repayment.

Mr. Cicak said he’s looking into various financial options to fund the company’s operations.

“No, I’m not closing,” he said Tuesday. “I’m going to try and work my way out of it.”

The company also received a rapid outreach grant for $500,000 from the Department of Development in 2008. That money was slated for job creation and retention, Mr. Hennessy said.

So, Ted Strickland bought into the Green Revolution lie. He gave loans to this fly by night startup that has yet to bear any real fruit, and appears to be taking a Solyndra type nosedive. But, Ted Strickland was a great governor, right? Maybe, if Tom Blumer gets on the case, we could call him, like Newt Calls Obama's presidency, the best food stamp governor ever.....