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July 7, 2011

After big business deals, Abound Solar progresses toward move

Tipton — A second production line is almost installed in Colorado and a third will go in before a solar manufacturer moves into Tipton County, company and county officials said last week.

It has been just more than a year since President Barack Obama announced Abound Solar Inc. was using a $400 million federal loan guarantee to expand into Tipton County and create more than 800 jobs in the area.

Abound, which produces thin-film photovoltaic modules, in December closed on its government-backed loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The company has used the money, combined with private investments, to install a second line at its existing factory in Longmont, Colo. A third will go in in Longmont, then attention will turn to Tipton County.

Russell Kanjorski, vice president of marketing for Abound, said the company remains on track with its original plans to begin installing production equipment in late 2012 or early 2013.

“That doesn’t mean things aren’t happening in Tipton,” Kanjorski said.

Abound took control of the building when it received its loan in December and signed a long-term lease with a real estate developer in Colorado.

Contractors have visited the facility to assess what repairs and construction remains.

The plant sprawls over roughly 800,000 square feet at the northeast corner of U.S. 31 and Ind. 28. No one has occupied it since 2008, when previous owners Chrysler Corp. and Getrag Transmission backed out of the construction of an almost finished transmission factory.

Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper said a lack of climate control in the incomplete plant caused patches of mold on walls, and a storm earlier this year caused minor damage. Crews have made those repairs and also cleared remaining clutter that Chrysler and Getrag left when they abandoned the building.

Abound could begin looking as early as late 2011 or early 2012 to hire managers to oversee the Tipton start-up, Kanjorski said. Most positions will open when the factory starts operating in 2013. Production will ramp up, so Abound will gradually create its projected 800 to 1,000 jobs, he said.

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