Michigan’s Great Lakes Solar Technology Park opens for business

Michigan’s Great Lakes Solar Technology Park opens for businessThe newly opened, 231-acre park in Saginaw County, Mich., was developed to encourage solar companies and related technologies to locate manufacturing facilities there. The park was designed to allow six companies to locate facilities at the park for potentially no cost, in exchange for meeting certain conditions, like creating local jobs.

The site, now a greenfield, and the incentives were made possible through Saginaw Future, a public-private partnership with local businesses, governments, the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce and Michigan. To encourage manufacturing, the park is undergoing $4 million in infrastructure improvements, according to JoAnn Crary, Saginaw Future president.

While no plans have yet been announced, there’s a lot of interest in the park, said Greg LaMarr, Saginaw Future spokesperson.

“I can’t go into detail as of yet,” he said. “We’ve definitely shown it to companies and have actively marketed it for some time. Even this week we’re showing the park to potential clients.”

The site has additional benefits for solar manufacturers, like its proximity to both Dow Solar and Hemlock Semiconductor.

“We want to attract the whole solar supply chain,” LaMarr said. “We already have components of the industry here.”

In exchange for deciding to locate at the technology park, companies will have to meet certain guidelines and benchmarks, according to LaMarr.

“If they do qualify, then they get the parcels for no cost. It has to do with job creation and investment of course,” he said.

The park also will offer more incentives, which could include property tax exemptions.

“That’s potentially part of the incentive package. We will look at it on a project by project basis,” he said.

It’s part of Saginaw County’s continued effort to diversify employers in the region. While it was hard hit in the 1990s, when auto manufacturers reduced jobs, it has since added a number of diverse industries to the region—solar’s just the latest.

The county’s efforts have paid off. It’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate is lower than most of the state.

While the site is potentially divided into six plots, there’s flexibility built in to meet manufacturer’s needs.

“The plans that have been drawn up are not set in stone,” LaMarr said. “If someone needs a bigger building, we’ll accommodate them. There’s definitely flexibility to make just about any project viable.”

Other companies could qualify for the facility’s incentives, even if they weren’t necessarily a solar company, like an inverter manufacturer.

“If a company met the requirements and weren’t particularly solar, as long as they met the requirements, of course we would welcome them,” LaMarr said.