By Debbie Rogers
MILLBURY — First Solar notched another approval in the process to expand a plant in Lake Township.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the Lake Township Trustees approved a 10-year tax abatement agreement.
The expansion will be 200,000 square feet onto First Solar’s initial plant that is closest to Ohio 795, said Wade Gottschalk, Wood County economic director.
“That’s about a 20% increase in size. That’s a $30 million buildout; the total investment is over $100 million,” he said.
Ten employees will be added, Gottschalk said.
“Minimal job creation associate with this, but it’s a big capital investment for them,” he said.
The agreement will bring an additional $149,500 annually to Lake Local Schools, and $12,000 to Penta Career Center, for the next 10 years.
The tax abatement is for 10 years at 100%. It will expire at the same time that the initial 15-year tax abatement agreement with the township ends, Gottschalk said.
“We’re looking for this incentive to make the project viable in Wood County,” he said.
Trustee Chairman Ken Gilsdorf commented on the expected number of personnel to be added.
“All that expansion and only 10 employees,” he said.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of robotics that goes into these,” Gottschalk said. “There’s $70 million in equipment going into that building.”
Gilsdorf said that he also appreciated Lake board of education member Tim Krugh’s comment last week to the Sentinel about not needing operating money due to First Solar’s payments.
The company love is not prevalent everywhere, however.
Resident Sue Brinker said that First Solar is not a good neighbor, and the development is a “slap in the face.”
Arlyn Brinker said First Solar should be paying the township.
“We’ve given and given,” he said. “It’s time for First Solar to give to us.”
After the meeting, the trustees were asked why First Solar wasn’t giving the township an annual payment, like it agreed to with a previous tax abatement.
That payment is $200,000 annually, said Police Chief Mark Hummer, who is also the township administrator.
Gilsdorf and Trustee Richard Welling said that they see this differently, as an expansion, not something new.
First Solar’s main campus is in Perrysburg Township. It has manufacturing plants in Lake Township.
In October, First Solar announced plans to invest approximately $270 million in a dedicated research and development innovation center in Perrysburg. The new R&D center will be located near First Solar’s existing Perrysburg manufacturing facility, covering an area of approximately 1.3 million square feet.
In August, the company announced a $185 million upgrade of its two operating facilities in Perrysburg and Lake Township.
Also in that August release, First Solar announced plans to expand its third factory, which is currently under construction in Lake Township and expected to open early next year.
Gottschalk said that this latest expansion will start in June and should be completed by June 2025.
Also at the meeting, the trustees:
• Awarded Gerken Paving Inc., Napoleon, the paving project for Millbury Road, from Ohio 51 to Ayers Road, Cummings Road from Ohio 795 to Martin-Moline Road, Misty Lane, from Bradner Road to Cedar Valley Drive, Shadow Lane, from Bradner to Cedar Valley, Cedar Valley, Red Bud Drive, Old Trail Way, from Red Bud to the cul-de-sac, Bobwhite Drive, Indian Trail Boulevard, from Bradner Road to Red Bud and Pheasant Drive, from Bobwhite to Red Bud
Their $296,909 bid was the lowest bid by $246.
• Contracted with the Wood County Engineer’s Office to chip and seal Libbey Road, from East Broadway Road to Lemoyne Road, for $36,633, and Hanley Road, from Tracy Road to East Broadway, for $15,757.
• Renewed the accident and health insurance policy used by the fire department with Love Insurance Agency, Chardon, for $4,847.
• Voted to pay $3,825 as its proportionate share to the Wood County Emergency Management Agency. It is 55 cents per capita of 2023.
• Authorized $3,111 to Bayer Auto LLC, Perrysburg, for repairs to the 2017 Ford patrol car. The company will also repair the 2016 Ford patrol car for $2,580. Police Chief Mark Hummer said that the department continues to repair its vehicles as new ones are challenging to find.
• Voted to pay $1,836 to ProMedica Employee Assistance Program, Fremont.
Paid $1,031 to Koorsen Fire and Security, Indianapolis, for fire alarm, sprinkler and backflow testing and inspections.
• Approved paying $1,182 for the annual Wood County CodeRED mass notification system.
• Authorized $1,135 to Laser Technology, Centennial, Colorado, for repairs to the laser used by the police department.
• Said that they were implementing a new comment process. Audience members who want to address the trustees must sign up before the meeting.