Hemlock Semiconductor of Clarksville laid off all of its nearly 300 employees months ago. But the company is still receiving regular payments from the state of Tennessee, including checks totaling nearly $720,000 just this month, reports WPLN.
The Department of Finance is making good on $95 million of promised incentives, having paid $92 million so far, according to a state spokesperson.
“This is something that the current administration sort of inherited,” says Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes. “I think we do have to be very careful and very thoughtful going forward on things like this.”
Former Governor Phil Bredesen – a Democrat – made the deal to bring the solar industry player to Tennessee in 2008. Since then, competition from China has dragged down the price for polysilicon, which is the key component in solar panels manufactured by Hemlock.
Now in the minority, Democrats like Lowe Finney pushed a bill this year that would give the state a way to get back some money if companies don’t deliver on their part of the deal.
“Different legislators have talked about oversight for a number of years,” Sen. Finney (D-Jackson) said. “But it’s a matter of timing.”
The law was signed by Gov. Bill Haslam late last week. It passed unanimously, but that may be because it could be viewed as watered-down. The proposal still doesn’t mandate clawback provisions in future economic incentive deals.
News release from Division of Forestry, state Department of Agriculture:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Predatory beetles that feed on hemlock woolly adelgids (HWA), an invasive pest killing swaths of hemlock trees from eastern Tennessee to the Cumberland Mountains, were released Tuesday at Martha Sundquist State Forest in Cocke County. The release was an effort by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry (TDF) to protect young eastern hemlock seedlings from the invasive exotic pest, which is responsible for killing many, if not most, of the mature hemlocks in the state forest.
“Martha Sundquist State Forest is a good site for these beetles to be released because there is a healthy population of HWA to sustain them,” said Douglas Godbee, TDF Forest Health Forester. “We will monitor these beetles over the next couple of years in hopes that they will reproduce, become an established population, and continue to prey on HWA in order to eventually control the HWA population.”
Native to Asia, the hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) is a small, aphid-like insect that threatens the health and sustainability of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and Carolina hemlock (Tsuga caroliniana) in the Eastern United States. It feeds at the base of the needles and can quickly populate all needles of a tree, sucking the sap and ultimately causing mortality within 3 to 10 years of infestation. The potential ecological impacts of this exotic pest are comparable to that of Dutch elm disease and chestnut blight. HWA was first reported in the U.S. in 1951 near Richmond, Va., and has since spread to 17 states, from Maine to Georgia.
Hemlock Clarksville and a similar plant that Wacker Chemie AG is building near Cleveland, Tenn., are supposed to be the first steps toward the development of a vibrant solar industry in Tennessee, one in which solar panels and all of their components could be made within the state, reports Chas Sisk.
But the odds that will happen in the near future are slim, despite the tens of millions the state has committed toward the solar industry’s success.
…This year, three major solar panel makers have gone out of business, including California-based Solyndra, which is now under investigation after receiving more than $500 million in federal loan guarantees. Surviving companies have scrapped plans or merged with others.
Tennessee has not been safe from the volatility. Confluence Solar, a Missouri-based solar company that was supposed to be setting up the state’s third major silicon plant, was bought last month. Its new owner has already said it will not be opening a facility in Tennessee.
Bredesen had trumpeted the Confluence deal as evidence the Hemlock and Wacker deals were laying the groundwork for Tennessee’s future. Now, the Haslam administration will say only that it believes solar will play some role in the state’s economy, alongside more traditional industries.
“Our philosophy is all about creating a great business climate for every business,” state Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. ” ‘Optimistic’ is the word that we have right now (for the solar industry).”
..Exactly how much Tennessee has committed to solar is difficult to quantify. Earlier this month, the State Building Commission approved $36.1 million in bonds and cash for construction of Wacker’s Cleveland facility, but that represents only a sliver of the state’s total commitment.
After analyzing agreements with Wacker and Hemlock, the Nashville Business Journal last month estimated the state’s current and future commitments to both projects to be $328 million, a figure that an ECD spokesman could not confirm.
The State Building Commission signed off Thursday on $346.2 million in state taxpayer funding to help build two large industrial plants in Clarksville and Cleveland, Tenn., plus $7 million for the Port of Cates Landing on the Mississippi River in Lake County.
Richard Locker wrote the report:
The $245.9 million in total state funding for the $1.2 billion Hemlock Semiconductor plant in Clarksville and $100.3 million for the $1.1 billion Wacker Chemie polysilicon production plant in Cleveland — plus a previously approved $100 million for a new Electrolux plant in Memphis — represent the first time state government has spent money on the actual construction and equipping of plants.
The projects, previously approved by the legislature, include a combination of current tax revenue and state bonds, to be repaid by general taxpayer revenue.
The new $26.2 million Cates Landing river port under construction near Tiptonville is funded by the $7 million from the state, $13 million from the federal government and $6.2 million in local funds.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Hemlock Semiconductor on Monday confirmed it is negotiating with Tennessee officials on an incentive package on a potential $3 billion expansion of its solar materials plant in Clarksville.
The Hemlock, Mich.-based company issued its statement after a member of Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration announced in a Senate subcommittee earlier in the day that the state it is pursuing a $150 million bond issue to make infrastructure improvements at the site.
State Budget Director Bill Bradley told the panel that the money would be directed to the industrial development board in Montgomery County and that the expansion would create 900 new jobs at the plant.