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U.S. tariffs a factor in Chinese company seeking plant in Jackson?


While there is nothing new under the sun, things do change.

Such as the solar market, which has since the Solyndra debacle that gave the Obama administration a black eye.

The California startup defaulted on a $535 million federal loan in 2011. It subsequently filed a $1.5 billion antitrust suit against China’s three largest solar panel makers.

In Mississippi, the Twin Creeks Technologies project in Senatobia, into which the state Economic Development Authority invested $27 million, collapsed without creating marketable product or really creating any jobs.

China was listed among the factors in the failure of the Senatobia plant. State officials blamed it for dumping cheaper photovoltaic cells on the U.S. market and undercutting its solar industry.

Roles may be reversed, at least in Jackson.

A Chinese company is asking for help from local and state government.

Seraphim Solar would be the first Chinese manufacturer to produce panels in the United States, according to PVTech.

Earlier this month, Seraphim announced – and Mayor Tony Yarber touted – plans to build a $50 million facility in a distressed part of Jackson and create 250 jobs over five years.

The Jackson Council has yet to approve an agreement with Seraphim, and the Mississippi Development Authority will not reveal its incentives offers while the agreement is pending.

Lindsay Leveen, who served as an adviser for Chile’s largest iron ore miner, CAP SA, which is buying power from the largest solar facility in Latin America, said the Jackson project will yield low-paying jobs. U. S.-based SunEdison built the facility, which was opened in June 2014.

Seraphim said that its payroll could rise to $7.3 million. With 250 workers, the number it said it could reach, that would be an average of $29,200 per employee. But it is not known if that includes management, and calls to Jackson City Hall have not been returned.

It appears that the proposed site for the plant, at 3111 Lawson St., qualifies for a New Market Tax Credit.

In that case, “the new market credit will total about 37 percent of the $50 million,” Leveen said in an email.

The equipment could amount to $50 million, said California-based Leveen, whose website, www.greenexplored.com is dubbed the Green Machine.

City of Jackson spokeswoman Shelia Byrd said in the release announcing the project that Seraphim would renovate an existing building.

“They probably will source some of the heavier and bulkier parts in the U.S. but the guts of the panels will come from overseas,” Leveen said.

“ This is a reversal of roles.  The U.S. used to fabricate the high value parts and use Malaysian or Filipino workers to assemble electronic devices.  We have sunk to being the ‘low cost’ assembler and this is the state of US industry and various state and local industrial development agencies fight over scraps.”


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