Business group says San Jose company might abandon plans for Wilsonville plant

Rumors are swirling that Mayor Sam Adams will soon announce the city is actively recruiting SoloPower to build a solar power manufacturing plant in Portland.

City Hall sources tell the Portland Tribune that Adams will hold a press conference Friday to announce financial incentives the city is offering the company. His press aide Amy Ruiz says such a press conference in "not confirmed."

San Jose's SoloPower has been looking to build a $340 million plant in Wilsonville supported by urban renewal funds. Some Wilsonville residents have been threatening to refer the funding to the ballot, however.

One source on the possible deal is Westside Business Alliance Executive Director Jonathan Schlueter, who sent an e-mail saying the City Council is expected to meet Friday morning to approve incentives. He said the city's plan involves locating the plant in a designated enterprise zone in North Portland.

City Hall sources say council action could not come sooner than next week, however.

The alliance represents businesses in Washington and western Clackamas counties.

Here is part of Schlueter's e-mail:

In a telephone conversation this morning, SoloPower's President and CEO Tim Harris told WEA staff his company has not yet chosen a specific site, and the company is actively seeking lease options for buildings offering 200,000 sq. ft. in the North Portland enterprise zone. When asked if he would consider similar space in any Westside locations, Harris insisted any alternative sites needed to be in the north Portland enterprise zone.

Last month, SoloPower received tentative agreement from Clackamas County and the City of Wilsonville to lease a warehouse and distribution facility on S.W. 95th Avenue, just west of Interstate 5. WEA members and staff actively supported the tax incentives plan offered to the company, with public testimony on January 19 and April 4. Mr. Harris recalled that testimony, and thanked WEA for our support.

"But a handful of neighborhood activists in Wilsonville who opposed the tax-based incentives package, filed a petition on April 19 demanding the City ordinance approving the plan be placed on the ballot for a public vote. It is not known whether the petitioners will be successful in gathering 887 legitimate signatures, representing 10 percent of the registered voters in Wilsonville, within the 30-day time limit that began April 19.

But faced with mounting demands to construct a state of the art manufacturing facility, hire new workers, order equipment, and expand his company's production capacity by next year, Harris told Wilsonville officials last month his company could not wait for a vote of the local residents to secure SoloPower's future.

If, as expected, company officials announce tomorrow they now plan to locate in north Portland, it should be a tremendous disappointment for the City of Wilsonville and Clackamas County. But it will mark a major accomplishment for Mayor Sam Adams and the City of Portland, for Governor Kitzhaber and Business Oregon, and for the unemployed workers of our state.

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