Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar recently said it would close its Devens, Mass., manufacturing facility and move all manufacturing to China “to better position the company to pursue its industry standard size wafer strategy and preserve the company’s liquidity.”
The plant had employed 800 Massachusetts residents and had received more than $58 million in incentives from Massachusetts to locate the plant there. Massachusetts State Senator James Eldridge (D) said Evergreen’s plant closure and move inspired him to file legislation that allows for “clawbacks” of such incentives when companies breech their agreements.
Eldridge supported Evergreen’s decision to locate in his district.
“I was excited at the prospect of over 800 jobs coming in to the district,” he said. “I was mistaken on that and believe there needs to be stricter scrutiny of companies.”
Compounding the issue, the company hired Donald Reilly as its new chief financial officer and offered him a six month severance package—even if fired. But Evergreen has not been upfront with its employees on what their severance packages will be
Eldridge said one employee told him “they believe the severance package is for eight weeks. They also think they’re eligible for an extra week of severance for each year they worked at the company,” he said. “But that hasn’t been confirmed.”
Eldridge said he filed clawback legislation that would allow Massachusetts to recover more of the incentives that it offered to businesses when they don’t live up to their commitments. He said that under the proposed legislation, “Job data would be public and put in a very easy format.” The size and number of tax breaks to any company would also be made public.
“[It’s not just] for renewable energy,” he said. “It’s about certain corporate practices.”
Among the incentives the state offered Evergreen Solar were a $15 million property tax break, a $7.5 million in state tax break, $2.7 million through a subsidized lease and $21 million in cash grants. Not to mention that the state spent $13 million in construction on roads and other infrastructure to support the plant.
At present, the state is attempting to recoup some of the grant money it issued to the company.
“That’s the process going on right now,” Eldridge said. “To see what the state can take back. They think it will be about $3 million.”
Pictured: Evergreen’s String Ribbon production line, courtesy of Evergreen Solar.