Solar firm investing $500M in unused Getrag plant; 850 jobs planned

A Colorado-based solar panel manufacturer will get federal help to take over the empty Getrag plant on U.S. 31 near Kokomo, creating as many as 850 jobs in the next three years and establishing what it says will be the largest such facility in the United States.

Abound Solar Inc. will get help from a $400 million federal loan guarantee to open the Tipton County facility and expand an existing plant in Colorado. President Barack Obama announced nearly $2 billion in federal economic stimulus funding for two solar energy firms on Saturday, touting thousands of new jobs and increased use of renewable energyy. Abound Solar and Abengoa Solar, which is building a massive plant in Arizona, are the beneficiaries.

Abound Solar also is eligible for a total of more than $12 million in performance-based tax credits and training grants from the Indiana Economic Development Corp. Tipton County leaders in May approved another $13 million in incentives to help lure the then-identified company.

The plant, where transmissions were to be built, has stood empty since 2008. Getrag Manufacturing LLC filed for bankruptcy and halted work on the plant after the company's partnership with Chrysler LLC collapsed. The facility has never been used.

A federal bankruptcy court in Detroit turned the facility over to a trustee group consisting of contractors still owed money on the project.

Abound Solar plans to invest more than $500 million in machinery, equipment and building improvements in Tipton County, the IEDC said Saturday. After renovations begin, the company plans to hire engineers, technicians and production associates.

IEDC said it worked with county leaders, federal lawmakers, state officials and the U.S. Department of Energy to help the company seal the deal.

"State and local representatives from Indiana were particularly instrumental in our efforts to finalize plans for this state-of-the-art facility and create high-paying jobs for Hoosier workers," Abound executive Steve Abely said in a prepared statement.  "We are excited about the opportunity to make America a global driver of renewable, affordable and abundant solar energy."

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