Importing Manufacturing.. Boon or Bust?

The largest Chinese manufacturer of solar panels, Suntech Power, has announced that it is opening a manufacturing plant here in Metro Phoenix.  This is fabulous news.  I think.  It is hard to tell what it really means.  What we know is that they are looking to open a plant in the area that will be somewhere around 80,000 to 100,000 square feet.  They will employ about 75 people right away and perhaps double that at the end of next year.  They plan to invest about $10 million.  Some have sighted this as little more than a brand exercise to alleviate concerns that green jobs will all be outsourced over seas.  Regardless of what it is the announcement saw Suntech Power’s value increase 13% or $2.7 billion.  You can see why this move makes sense for them.

This is very similar to the announcements of Google coming to Phoenix in 2005.  Everyone is trying to take credit for landing this whopper of a fish.  Arizona State University says that it’s awesome research prowess landing the deal.  The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is claiming that they were the ones that got this deal done.  Then there are the politicians that cite their aggressive tax credit deals are what made this announcement possible.

The truth is all of them are probably responsible.  The question is could they be doing things that are more productive for our economy?  As we saw, Google didn’t stick around.  They cited lack of quality engineering talent.  Maybe if ASU was less concerned with being an economic development engine and land developer and instead spent their energy on a top notch engineering school.  We lost a lot more than 75 jobs in the last 12 months.  If only, GPEC would have been more focused on strategies to diversify our economy in the last decade instead of traveling the world looking to recruit it in.  Politicians are quick to put out tax credits for large corporations to move operational arms here, but where are the tax credits for local job creation coming from entrepreneurs.  Short of the angel tax credit, there isnt much.

Suntech welcome to Arizona.  We are glad to have you.  We hope to help you succeed.  We hope to see you in the Southeast Valley.