GlobalWatt says goodbye to Saginaw

Sanjeev Chitre, CEO of GlobalWatt

It promised 500 jobs to our area and multi-million dollars in investments, but as of Thursday, GlobalWatt moved out of MidMichigan.

At the Residence Inn, GlobalWatt's CEO explained why the company decided to change course. CEO Sanjeev Chitre says he's sorry for not making good on bringing hundreds of solar jobs to Saginaw.

In late 2009, Saginaw was buzzing about GlobalWatt being awarded Michigan tax credits to expand in Saginaw.

The company's business plan said it would create around 500 jobs and invest millions into the local economy.

But company officials say the renewable energy industry is in the middle of a perfect solar storm.

"When we came here (in 2009), solar was the fastest growing business. It was at 35% to 40% a year and prices were about $8 a watt," says Chitre. But now, GlobalWatt says overseas competition has lowered prices for producers to a dollar a watt. "The competitive landscape for products for panels overseas is so high that it actually would make our product not competitive in the global marketplace."

GlobalWatt also says it can't afford to stay in Saginaw. It says the cost to stay in the 75,000 square foot building on Leon Scott would have cost $35,000 for just the month of January in 2012. That's more than $22,500 alone for rent.

Even GlobalWatt's customers say the move out of Saginaw had to happen. Allan O'Shea, from Contractors Building Supply in Copemish, MI, says, "We know how to do this at a competitive cost method. We are going to compete with the dumping that's going on from China and other places."

Rather than continuing in Saginaw, GlobalWatt will build a facility within an existing Michigan location near Traverse City.

It says it remains optimistic about possibly expanding in MidMichigan.

"If we do 100 megawatts of solar panel shipment and build approximately 50 to 100 mobile systems, we will hire between 400 to 500 people, but the market has to go there," says Chitre.

By moving out of Saginaw, GlobalWatt says it will save 75% on operating costs.

The CEO says not one dollar has been taken from tax payers for anything it has done so far.

It says it produced around 1,300 solar units while in Saginaw.