Wednesday, February 16, 2011

California Town Attracts Solar Firm and 500 Jobs

Belmont has scored its second major technology company of the past seven months, this time attracting a solar firm that plans to bring up to 500 jobs to the city.

SunEdison plans to move its international headquarters from Maryland to an empty office space in a complex at 600 Clipper Drive, just east of Highway 101 and south of the Foster City limits. Self-described as a "global leader among solar companies," the firm develops and maintains solar plants and plans to overhaul the office space through an $8 million renovation aided by state tax breaks and funds.

Company executives said they picked the Belmont office because of its proximity to Highway 101 -- its sign will be visible to about 240,000 drivers per day -- and sto tap into Silicon Valley's talent pool.

They expect to transfer about 100 employees from Maryland and San Francisco and add up to 400 more local workers within the next three years.

"We're recruiting only out of the Peninsula area," said Carole Jacolick, SunEdison's vice president for human resources and administration. "We are growing rapidly."

But the company's move won't benefit the city's finances much initially, as the City Council late Tuesday agreed to waive $86,400 of the $106,400 in permit fees the company would have had to pay as part of the renovation.

"Sometimes I think we do really have to pinch ourselves to get things done around here, and I think this is a time to do it," said Councilwoman Christine Wozniak.

Council members said the concession would sweeten the pot to land a high-profile company.

They added that they'd be reaping other economic benefits from the company's move -- mainly through an influx of local jobs and workers who could patronize Belmont shops, increased property values and taxes on the business's sales.

"A business like this can attract other business to Belmont as well, showing that we are committed to green technology," said Councilman David Braunstein.

Council members said they were worried about increases in traffic in the area as a result of the new employees.

Mayor Coralin Feierbach also expressed concern that local schools would be overcrowded from the flow of new residents, and was adamant that the company hire mostly local workers instead of merely shipping in out-of-towners.

But, they said, the draw of the company was far greater than any of their concerns, and they particularly liked the idea of getting a company that promotes the environment.

SunEdison's relocation comes after Volkswagen of America announced in July that it would move its Electronics Research Lab from Palo Alto to a 40,000-square-foot space in the same Clipper Drive building.

That move involved up to 100 employees, and was a coup for Belmont because the research lab is renowned for its car development.


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