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Brewer: Addition of Chinese solar firm shows impact of tax credits

A Chinese solar-panel manufacturer’s decision to put its North American headquarters and about 150 jobs in Arizona shows that a law providing tax credits will boost the state’s appeal to renewable energy firms, Gov. Jan Brewer said Nov. 16.

“They are high-paying jobs and, yes, they will be Arizonans,” Brewer said at a news conference. “I know that today we are celebrating what is more to come for the future for renewable energy companies to come to Arizona, the land of solar.”

Brewer said Suntech Power Holdings Co. will employ up to 400 people within a few years at a 100,000-square-foot operation it will establish in the East Valley or West Valley. The company is expected to take advantage of tax credits offered by a law taking effect Jan. 1.

“Because of the renewable energy tax incentive program, Arizona is now the premier place in the United States to do business,” Brewer said. “Trust me, they are not going to be the last ones. I have had the opportunity to meet with other large-scale producers of renewable energy and solar manufacturers throughout the country.”

Suntech, which is expected to open its operation in January after retrofitting an existing facility, can receive income tax credits if it pays more than half of its workers a minimum of 125 percent of Arizona’s minimum wage and covers 80 percent of health care costs for full time employees.

The company can receive property tax incentives if it invests $25 million or more in capital costs, but Suntech is expected to make an initial investment of $13 million to $17 million, said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

“This company’s incentive will follow its performance,” Broome said.

Noting that Suntech chose Arizona over states such as New Mexico and Nevada, Broome said it’s fitting that a Chinese company announced the investment during President Barack Obama visit to China. He said the company is making a long-term commitment to the state.

“The Chinese do not make short-term decisions; they make long-term decisions,” he said.

Suntech has been working with Arizona State University researchers for years to improve the efficiency of its solar panels. Rick Shangraw, ASU’s vice president for research and economic affairs, said Suntech’s decision to base its North American operations here is a logical next step that takes advantage of consumer incentives for converting to solar.

“Now we have all three: researchers, users and manufacturers, so that gives us a lot more recognition as a place to come when you think about solar energy,” Shangraw said.

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