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Government-Backed Solar Company Lays Off Employees…After Promising Hundreds of New Jobs


"...received millions of dollars in government loans and tax breaks..."

Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC laid off about 40 people indefinitely at the beginning of January until changes to its production line are completed, according to Blade Business.

The layoffs were confirmed by WTOL 11 and Sophia Fisher, executive manager of the Northwest Ohio Solar Hub.

"I'd say pretty typical of the cycle these businesses go through and experience. It's not uncommon," Fisher told WTOL 11. Apparently, she believes Willard and Kelsey can make a comeback.

"Go in, make changes to production line improvements from efficiency and cost from a business perspective. Then you'll eventually, in the near future, you'll see them ramp up again for production," Fisher said.

Michael Cicak, the company's chief executive officer and chairman of the board, would not say when the changes would be completed or when the laid-off employees could return to work, writes Kris Turner of Blade Business.

"We have some technical people in here improving the efficiency of the assembly line," Mr. Cicak said, adding that the Perrysburg-based facility still has about 30 employees.

When it's fully operational, Willard and Kelsey employs a little over 80 people. So what made the energy company have to cut back on its numbers?

Apparently, the “start-up company has been plagued by a series of production and staffing delays since it was formed in 2008,” according to the Toledo Blade. However, despite these obvious managerial concerns, the company still “received millions of dollars in government loans and tax breaks” and was touted by Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland as a model of innovation and success.

See Vice President Biden's 2009 praise for Willard & Kelsey:

And although Cicak said last week that the facility was “to reopen Monday after a period of adjusting its inventory,” reports from the Blade would imply that much more is going on behind the scenes.

“Only 15 cars were in the parking lot at 1:30 p.m. Monday. The office was devoid of activity, and the rows of desks were empty,” Turner writes. “A tour of the production line and the changes being made to it were not made available to The Blade.”

The cost of changing the assembly line was not released. Willard & Kelsey also does not release its quarterly earnings or its profit margin because it's a privately held company, Mr. Cicak told The Blade.

So how much money has this company received through state and federal funding?

“As of early 2011, the company had received a $5 million research and development loan from the Ohio Department of Development, a $10 million loan from the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, a $3.3 million job creation tax credit, and a $701,000 grant to provide training for 50 current and 250 new workers [emphases added],” Turner reports.

Yet, despite this type of financial support, it looks as if the company is far from producing the 250 jobs it had promised back in February, 2011. And it looks like it’s even farther away from accomplishing its goal of producing “600 to 700 jobs in the next to two years and up to 4,000 in five or six years.”

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