SolarWorld has notified the State of Oregon that intended to lay off approximately 100 employees at its Hillsboro manufacturing plant.
Ben Santarris, the company's head of public relations, says the lay offs are the final phase of an operational restructuring plan that began in February. Santarris says the company expects to employee around 650 or so workers at the plant after the restructuring is completed.
SolarWorld, which is based in Germany, is also restructuring its financing. Santarris says the company expects to complete its financial restructuring late this year or early next year.
According to Santarris, both restructuring plans are in response to what he terms "illegal" competition from Chinese manufacturers who are selling solar products below cost in he United States and Europe.
The U.S. Department of Commerce has upheld a trade complaint against the Chinese manufacturers filed by SolarWorld and others. Although the federal government has imposed tariffs on the Chinese manufacturers, Santarris says they have not completely stopped in the import of the government-subdized Chinese products.
"They have slowed down, but not as much as the prices have continued to drop," says Santarris.
SolarWorld notified the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development about the layoffs on July 2. The notification is required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. It says the layoffs are expected to occur on or about Aug. 31.
"This employment actions may result in the termination of approximately one hundred (100) workers (regular employees and temporary workers) at the Company Facility. This employment action is expected to be permanent. The affected employees and individuals are not members of a collective bargaining unit and, accordingly, do not have bumping right," reads the notification.
Report highlights SolarWorld's contributions
The notification was sent around the same time that SolarWorld released a report documenting its contribution to the local, state and national economy.
According to the report, at this time, SolarWorld employees around 700 people at its Hillsboro manufacturing plant and dozens more at a smaller office in Camarillo, Calif. Average annual compensation for permanent, full-time SolarWorld employees exceeds the national average.
The report also says the company purchased more than $240 million in goods and services from other manufacturers and employers in 46 states in 2012. Oregon was the largest state with $71 million in purchases, followed by Washington at $45 million, California at $43 million, Pennsylvania at $18.7 million, and Minnesota at $18.6 million.
Economists have long viewed American manufacturers as particularly potent catalysts of U.S. economic growth, Gordon Brinser, president of SolarWorld Industries America Inc. in Hillsboro, said of the report. They also recognize the intimate tie between manufacturing and innovation – and the related spin-off business and academic development.