Politicians show up, grinning for the cameras at groundbreaking, they come applauding the expansion announcement (and why not, public tax breaks and other policy support for solar power manufacturers were chief among the reasons the plants were built in the first place), but where are the toothy smiles of supporting public officials when the company closes the manufacturing plant down? Evergreen Solar, a prized clean-energy/green jobs catch of the state of Massachusetts thanks to some creative economic development work by state and local governments, is closing its manufacturing plant in Devens, MA.
According to one summary, “Among the incentives the state offered Evergreen Solar were a $15 million property tax break, a $7.5 million in state tax break, $2.7 million through a subsidized lease and $21 million in cash grants. Not to mention that the state spent $13 million in construction on roads and other infrastructure to support the plant.” Another report put the figure at “at least $43m in state aid.”
Massachusetts politicians no longer swarm the gates of Evergreen Solar; instead they send notice that they want the tax breaks back, seeking $22.5 million from a company that has been losing money so quickly that it may not survive to the end of 2011. And perhaps Massachusetts should not feel especially foolish, Evergreen managed to squeak out significant support from government entities in Germany (“grants totaling approximately $34 million at current exchange rates”) and China, too ($33 million in state-owned company loans to Evergreen and a similar amount to its Chinese partner).
Just another warning sign that the business of promoting business with tax breaks and other local subsidies is fraught with difficulty.