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Another Voice: SolarCity has raised its statewide job commitment

By Steve James

In 2014, when we increased Silevo’s commitment to the state of New York and Buffalo fivefold and made plans to build the largest advanced manufacturing solar facility in the Western Hemisphere, we knew it was a big undertaking. That’s why we’re doing it: to enlist the people of Buffalo to help the world transition to cleaner, safer and more affordable energy.

Over the past week, there has been discussion in some media about our hiring plans in Buffalo. Some of it has been inaccurate, and we want to set the record straight.

In October 2015, after a review of the factory and equipment design, we did update our job commitment. We increased the total number of jobs we would create in the state of New York from 3,540 to 5,000 – while maintaining the same job commitment of 1,460 to the City of Buffalo, with a minimum of 500 manufacturing jobs. Other positions will include sales, project development and other functions, ultimately a wider range of jobs for a broader range of potential applicants.

The bottom line is that our total job commitment to the City of Buffalo has not changed, nor has our commitment to spend or incur approximately $5 billion in combined capital, operational expenses and other costs in the state.

When we look at our investment in Buffalo we look at it over the next 20 years. We are pleased with our progress to date, but building a large manufacturing facility will inevitably have complications and delays.

What is more important is that we build the most efficient solar manufacturing facility in the world, so that Buffalo can stay competitive against overseas manufacturing for generations to come. We are fully committed to making this happen.

We are already working in the community. We have worked with the Buffalo School District to secure a multimillion-dollar grant to provide solar industry training and certifications to high school students at South Park High School to start this fall. We worked with United Way of Buffalo and Erie County to create an advanced manufacturing apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor. We’re also very grateful for Mayor Byron Brown’s interest in the project, and we are collaborating to make sure that our hiring practices meet the needs of the community.

We know that the RiverBend project is ambitious, and it will continue to generate positive and negative headlines, many of which are beyond our control. So we will remain focused on our mission: to get the facility up and operating so that we can accelerate America’s migration to sustainable energy, to help consumers and businesses save money and to contribute to cleaner air, cleaner water and a healthier planet.

Steve James is senior vice president of operations for SolarCity, based in Buffalo.