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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 27, 201806:13 PM EST

City Council approves $3.4 million in financial incentives for JinkoSolar

China-based company plans to establish plant at Cecil Commerce Center.
by: David Cawton Associate Editor

City Council members unanimously approved nearly $3.4 million of financial incentives Tuesday for JinkoSolar (U.S) Industries Inc. to set up a solar-panel manufacturing facility in West Jacksonville.

Council members voted 19-0 to approve legislation that includes an economic development agreement between the company and the city for JinkoSolar to establish a plant in Jacksonville.

There was no discussion.

The legislation does not say that JinkoSolar would set up its U.S. headquarters in Jacksonville, but council Vice President Aaron Bowman said previously that it would.

“This is probably one of the biggest things we’ve ever done,” Bowman said. “It may not be the biggest project, but Jinko is probably the No. 1 or No.  2 solar company in the world and they chose Jacksonville.”

JinkoSolar (U.S.) Industries Inc., a subsidiary of Shanghai, China-based JinkoSolar Holding Co. Ltd., would be the first Chinese company to establish a U.S. solar-product operation after President Donald Trump approved a 30 percent tariff in January on imported solar panel technology.

The company agreed to lease most of a 407,435-square-foot building from developer Hillwood at AllianceFlorida at Cecil Commerce Center in West Jacksonville.

JinkoSolar plans to invest up to $50.5 million into the facility at 4660 New World Ave. Hillwood recently completed it as a speculative building.

JinkoSolar pledges to hire 200 employees at an average salary of $45,562 by year-end 2019.

Council approved tax incentives of $3.4 million, comprising a $3.2 million Recapture Enhanced Value grant to be paid over 10 years and a $200,000 Qualified Target Industry tax refund for JinkoSolar to be repaid over five years.

Kirk Wendland, executive director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, said the incentives ensure a return on investment for the city.

“This package, at least as far as the city’s commitment is concerned, rewards (JinkoSolar) for how they invest in this community,” he said.

Wendland said the company’s presence in Jacksonville, and its success or failure, would have a significant impact on the rest of solar industry.

“That ultimately could mean more investment from that industry here,” he said.

State incentives

The state will pay the remaining $800,000 of the total $1 million QTI refund and other state incentives are expected.

According to the BloombergQuint business and financial news site, JinkoSolar could obtain state incentives within two weeks.

Wendland agreed with that estimate, saying a decision from the state was likely within 30 days.

According to documents sent March 16 to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, JinkoSolar could begin operations in Jacksonville by October, with the plant opening no later than year-end 2019.

It plans to manufacture solar panels for utility customers, among other products.

JinkoSolar said it has a signed contract to produce panels for an unidentified U.S. company.

The legislation was fast-tracked through council, which means it was approved in a two-week cycle. It was introduced March 13, and approved after a second public hearing and vote Tuesday night.

Volt repealed

This is the second time council approved incentives for JinkoSolar. The first was under the code name Project Volt.

In January, council approved nearly $25 million in local incentives for the unidentified company.

That agreement included Volt hiring 800 employees and investing $410 million into two Jacksonville facilities in exchange for incentives of nearly $54 million from the state and city.

Council repealed the Volt agreement.

Wendland said March 12 that Volt was JinkoSolar and that the company planned to scale back its plans for Jacksonville.

Wendland introduced the current economic development agreement the same day that included the reduced job numbers and capital investment.

Tuesday after council voted to approve the JinkoSolar legislation, Wendland said he hoped the company would eventually expand to match the job target and capital investment figures in the Volt deal.

“I think they’re ready to see how this goes first and move on from there,” he said.

Bowman, who also is the senior vice president of business development for JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development arm of the JAX Chamber, said he hopes that JinkoSolar’s Jacksonville plant is the first of many.

“It’s the only company that’s decided to make a manufacturing presence in the United States from China,” Bowman said.

“They chose Jacksonville and that’s huge,” he said.

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