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Tesla sign goes up as it begins seeking production staff

The sign is up – and, as expected, it's Tesla, not SolarCity.

The electric car maker has put its mark on the sprawling South Park Avenue solar factory as it starts looking for production workers that will eventually make solar roof shingles inside the plant.

The sign sports the branding of Tesla, which bought SolarCity last year.

But for now, it is Panasonic that is making solar products inside the 1.2-million-square-foot factory in South Buffalo.

Panasonic, Tesla's production partner, last month started making modules that will go into solar panels and shingles that the two companies will eventually produce in Buffalo.

Panasonic earlier this summer began building its production workforce, hosting a series of well-attended information sessions and an August hiring event that had applicants lined up out the door.

Tesla also has taken the first steps toward building its own production staff for the Buffalo plant. The company posted an online listing for production associates at the Buffalo factory, and Tesla representatives participated in a job fair last week sponsored by state Sen. Timothy Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

Tesla officials, who have said that production has begun without providing any specifics, declined to discuss how fast the company plans to hire workers or how much it will pay for its manufacturing positions.

The production jobs, like those at Panasonic, will be built around 12-hour shifts. Tesla said it plans to staff its factory with four shifts of workers. It will have two day shifts, running from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., with one shift running Sunday to Tuesday, and another from Thursday to Saturday. Each will alternate on Wednesdays. The two night shifts, running from 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., will follow the same pattern.

Tesla has job postings for 26 different positions in Buffalo. Panasonic has listings for 19 different types of jobs.

Panasonic, which has said it hopes to have 150 workers on the job by the end of this month, is hosting a pair of job information sessions later this month as it builds up a workforce that company executives have said could reach 300 people by March.

Panasonic plans to hold a job information session from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Delavan Grider Community Center, 877 E. Delavan Ave. and another from 1-3 p.m. on Sept. 27 in Room 113 of the Northwest Community Center, 155 Lawn St.

The factory, which is owned by the state and leased to Tesla, is part of the state's Buffalo Billion economic development initiative. It is expected to employ 1,460 people and scheduled to reach full production by 2019, with a stated capacity of producing enough solar panels and solar roofing shingles to generate 1-gigawatt of electricity. While SolarCity executives have long said they expected the plant's capacity to exceed 1-gigawatt by quite a bit, JB Straubel, Tesla’s chief technical officer, told the Associated Press that the factory's capacity eventually could reach 2-gigawatts.

Tesla acquired rooftop solar installer SolarCity last year and intends to phase out the SolarCity name.

Tesla this summer started installing its solar roofs, which look like a regular roof but are made of glass tiles with solar cells inside, on the homes of company employees and investors on a test basis as a way of identifying potential issues before beginning general customer installations. Those solar products initially were made at Tesla's pilot solar factory in Fremont, Calif.

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