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Wood Village OKs tax break for solar cell plant

Wood Village wants to make things a little sunnier for a solar cell component company that plans to open a plant in the city.

XsunX Corp., a California-based green-technology company, announced it chose the former Merix Corp. building for its first component manufacturing facility Wednesday, April 2.

The company has signed a sublease agreement with Merix to take over the space on Northeast Halsey Street.

Wood Village City Council voted at its Tuesday, April 8, meeting to pursue an enterprise zone to offer a three-year tax abatement to the company, as well as other eligible corporations.

Council members unanimously approved the resolution, which gets the ball rolling on extending the Cascade-Columbia Enterprise Zone recently established by neighboring Fairview and Troutdale. XsunX officials had asked Wood Village leaders about the possibility of tax abatement status as it investigated Portland-area sites for its new plant.

Although some council members expressed doubts about giving a startup company the head start an enterprise zone allows, Mayor Dave Fuller expressed enthusiasm for the approach.

'I'm totally supportive of what we're proposing here,' he said. 'If we can accelerate development of these areas without making an investment, I'm all for it.'

Tom Djokovich, XsunX chief executive officer, said he was pleased the city is following through on the business incentive. The company plans to start up in 2009 with approximately 22 employees and may grow to include as many as 160.

'This is the first of what we hope to be a much larger facility,' he said from his office in Orange County, Calif. 'The fact that local and state governments are throwing their support behind our efforts encourages us to make future plans to expand there.'

The March pullout of Forest Grove-based Merix removed 110 employees and a significant source of future equipment-based tax revenue from Wood Village. If the building were to sit vacant, or be used as a warehouse, the city would gain no new tax revenue on capital investments. Therefore, Fuller points out, the three-year tax abatement from an enterprise zone is a worthy sacrifice in anticipation of XsunX's future capital investments.

'When you figure out the pluses and the minuses (of an enterprise zone), the thing is a win-win for them and us too.'

Wood Village council and city officials will hammer out enterprise zone parameters - what level of investments and types of companies qualify - in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, city officials plan to work with Mt. Hood Community College to retrain displaced Merix employees for possible XsunX manufacturing jobs. The process behind Merix's circuit boards is apparently adaptable to that of the latter company's silicon-based thin-film solar modules.

City Administrator Sheila Ritz met with Mt. Hood officials on Thursday, April 10, to 'talk about what their needs are for training,' Fuller said.

'The city is actively involved in assisting (XsunX) in every way it can.'