- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Hemlock Semiconductor Group is permanently closing its idled polysilicon plant in Clarksville, citing global trade disputes that have led to an oversupply of the compound used in solar energy panels.

The company’s president, Denise Beachy, announced the decision to The Leaf-Chronicle (https://leafne.ws/1AI0vz5 ) on Wednesday.

“We have been looking at the Clarksville site constantly, and we’ve reached the conclusion now, with the market looking very long and adverse … that we are going to close this Clarksville facility permanently,” she said.

Hemlock’s decision to build the plant was made to great fanfare, with then-Gov. Phil Bredesen predicting the investment would be “game-changing here in Tennessee.” Construction began in 2009, and the facility was nearly complete when Hemlock announced in 2013 it would not begin manufacturing there because of the supply glut and disputes with China over tariffs.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said his administration had recently been in talks with Hemlock about plans to jumpstart the factory.

“So we were most surprised and disappointed to get the announcement from them,” Haslam told reporters at the state Capitol.

Hemlock received a $95 million capital grant from the state in 2008 to help land the project in Clarksville, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development. Those economic incentives for Hemlock were issued before the state enacted a “clawback” provision to recoup grant money if companies don’t deliver on their job-creation promises.

Haslam noted that the Hemlock deal was struck by his predecessor but added that the arrangement “made a lot of sense at the time.”

“In the end, obviously the fact that they’re not going to be growing and adding those jobs in Clarksville is a disappointment for all of us,” he said.

The Clarksville plant was designed to initially make about 10,000 metric tons of polysilicon, with an eye toward expanding to more than double that capacity.

Beachy said the 50 remaining Hemlock employees at the plant were informed of the decision earlier Wednesday, and that some will be offered to relocate and others will be given a severance package.

Hemlock will work with economic development officials to dismantle the facility and to consider options for selling the site.

“We will accept the obligation to disassemble the manufacturing plant and equipment that cannot be repurposed,” she said, adding that the process will take an estimated 12 to 18 months.

Hemlock Semiconductor Group is a joint venture between Dow Corning Corp. and Shin-Etsu Handotai Co. of Japan.


Information from: The Leaf-Chronicle, https://www.theleafchronicle.com

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