Solar Panel Factory Groundbreaking

Rockford, IL – Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey is heading to China this Saturday. It's the tenth anniversary of Rockford's sister-city relationship with Changzhou. He will continue to look for business opportunities between the cities.

"China is a vast and growing economy," Morrissey says. "It only makes sense for us to try to attract foreign direct investors from China to come to the US - they're entrepreneurs, they're looking at some exciting opportunities. We think we have a great message to send in Rockford about our efforts to green and go global and go Rockford."

Morrissey will also visit the city of Hangzhou, the home of the company that is building a solar panel factory near the Rockford airport.

On Tuesday, dignitaries planted shovels into the dusty earth to symbolize the groundbreaking of Wanxiang's solar panel factory near the Rockford airport. All the while, huge construction vehicles continued their work on the 40-thousand square foot facility nearby.

The president of the American subsidiary of the Chinese company says he chose Rockford because of all the local and state support. Pin Ni asked those at the ceremony to stay committed to solar power.

"From a business point of view, renewable energy, including solar, is not really a mature business," Ni said. "That's the reason why we need a lot of support, a lot of understanding, great patience and dedication. But I believe we can get there."

A second phase of this project involves the construction of a solar farm near the airport. Chirinjeev Kathuria is president of Chicago-based New Generation Power.

"I think this solar plant facility is not only going to put Illinois on the forefront of clean energy but it will also bring much needed jobs to RFD," Kathuria said.

The Wanxiang solar panel assembly plant will employ 60 people to start. Quadrupling in size is part of the plan. Rockford mayor Larry Morrissey says he has been asked a lot lately what he's doing to bring jobs to the city.

"The truth is, we haven't been standing still," Morrissey says. "We've been moving forward on a number of fronts. Certainly, our education, our training, our workforce development has to change to be able to compete globally so we can prepare our workers for the types of jobs a Wanxiang might provide. For the research and development jobs that might otherwise not be looked upon to come to Rockford, we need those jobs to be in Rockford, Illinois."

Wanxiang president Pin Ni says he hopes to hold a grand opening at the plant within six months.