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Solar-panel maker cuts jobs goal in half, gets more time

By JACK WEATHERLY 

Stion Corp. has renegotiated its contract with state in which its commitment of jobs creation has been cut in half and its time limit was lengthened by five years.

Its memorandum of understanding with the Mississippi Development Authority, city of Hattiesburg and Forrest County, which was amended in November, was obtained by the Mississippi Business Journal under an Open Records Act request.

The maker of solar panels agreed in March 2011 to create 1,000 jobs by the end of 2017. Now it will have to create at least 500 jobs paying an average of $43,000 by the end of 2022.

The document cites “economic factors” in the solar industry that “have slowed the company in achieving its employment and investment goals.”

Stion Vice President Frank Yang said last week that between 2012 and 2014 the solar industry was oversupplied “due to dumping from Chinese companies,” which led to heavy tariffs by the United States, the European Union and India.

Stion will provide “additional collateral” to secure the new deal, according to the document.

The state initially lent the company $75 million and the city and county agreed to accept fees in lieu of ad valorem taxes.

“Project support payments” from the city and county are now linked to jobs creation. If Stion has created 350 but fewer than 500 jobs by Feb. 1, 2023, the payments, which are not defined in the amended memorandum, will be reduced by the city and county

Stion, whose headquarters are in San Jose, Calif., agreed to invest at least $250 million in the project by Dec. 31, 2019. If the goal is not met by the end of 2018, the support payments will be eliminated.

If that investment goal is not met by the end of 2019, the company will have to pay $3.75 million to the state “within thirty (30) days of demand made by the state.”

If fewer than 500 jobs but at least 350 jobs are created starting at the end of 2022, the company will have to pay 1 percent of the balance of the loan annually, with the penalty rising eventually to repayment of the loan balance if fewer than 100 jobs are created.

Chang said last week that the employment level in Hattiesburg was 110, but that the factory was ramping up to 100 percent capacity this year.

About Jack Weatherly

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