|Senator Brown speaks to
the media (Photos: Andrew Weber/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG – The importance of manufacturing – including clean energy – to Ohio’s economy was highlighted
during a tour of First Solar by members of the U.S. Manufacturing Council, as well as Sen. Sherrod Brown
and a Commerce Department official Wednesday afternoon.
The event came on the heels of the council’s meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn at Levis Commons, which
Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing and Services Nicole Lamb-Hale led. The meeting marked the first
time that the body, which advises the U. S. Secretary of Commerce on manufacturing competitiveness
issues, has met in the state. Bruce Sohn, CEO of First solar, is the group’s chair.
Area high school and OSU students, who were paired with council members and attended their meeting, also
attended the tour.
In remarks prior to the tour, Brown pointed out the importance of the council’s visit to Northwest Ohio,
and characterized the state as the Silicon Valley of clean energy, pointing to First Solar and other
companies in the industry.
"When we come out of the recession we are way better prepared" than when emerging from the
recession of the 1980s, because of such companies, he said.
The tour of the First Solar facility’s factory floor took attendees through the manufacturing process of
a solar module.
In remarks after the event, Brown said that Ohio is the third largest manufacturing state in the country,
and the fact that Lamb-Hale and the Manufacturing Council came to the region speaks volumes about
Northwest Ohio and its future. Ohio is a leading manufacturing state in a number of industries, he said.
Brown also mentioned that legislation he is planning to reintroduce in the Senate will help move the
state towards clean energy.
Speaking after the event, Brown elaborated on the two pieces of legislation, the SECTOR (Strengthening
Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success) and IMPACT (Investments for Manufacturing Progress and
Clean Technology) acts. SECTOR would help community colleges, labor unions and businesses, where
applicable, to train students for jobs through the Workforce Investment Act, he said. According to a
press release, the act "would organize stakeholders connected to a regional industry – multiple
firms, unions, education and training providers, and local workforce and education system administrators
– to develop plans for growing that industry." A $250,000 one-year planning grant and $2.5 million,
three-year implementation grant, would be available to qualifying entities.
|Bruce Sohn (left),
president of First Solar Energy, talks with Senator Sherrod Brown at the Perrysburg Township plant on
The IMPACT act, he said, would help provide loans to companies transitioning to clean energy
manufacturing – for instance, he said, a company shifting from making windshields to making glass for
Referring to SECTOR prior to the event, Brown said that he had heard too many stories of companies that
don’t have the workforce they need.
"It’s going to mean that these companies can grow," he said of the bill’s impact, if passed, on
Northwest Ohio. Businesses would be more likely to thrive in the area with a trained and eager
Lamb-Hale said she thinks the council’s visit means that "manufacturing is vibrant and alive and
well in Northwest Ohio," and expressed pride that a world-class company like First Solar is located
in the region. The visit also shows the Obama administration’s commitment to supporting manufacturing in
the region, and manufacturing’s importance in job creation, she said.