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Solar energy company to bring 500 jobs to NWI

IndianGov. MItch Daniels gestures during ceremony announcing plans for new U.S. headquarters Fronius Portage Ind. Thursday June 23 2011.

Indiana Gov. MItch Daniels gestures during a ceremony announcing plans for the new U.S. headquarters of Fronius in Portage, Ind., on Thursday, June 23, 2011. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 28, 2011 11:17AM



PORTAGE — Gov. Mitch Daniels joined Portage Mayor Olga Velazquez on Thursday to announce the creation of 500 new jobs in the area and what they called a key to further growth for Northwest Indiana.

The two spoke along with officials from Fronius, an Austrian company that announced it was moving the headquarters of its American solar energy converter operations to Portage in a $28 million local investment.

“I truly believe this is a game-changer, not only for Portage but for Northwest Indiana,” Velazquez said at the event.

The Portage location, at 1575 Louis Sullivan Drive in the Ameriplex, will be the company’s first American factory to make solar converters. It will also act as the headquarters of Fronius USA and the sales center for the Midwest, said Wolfgang Niedrist, management director for Fronius USA.

“This means a lot of (job) opportunities in diversified fields,” Niedrist said.

The plan is to employ 100 people at the site by the third quarter of 2012, he said, with plans to expand to 512 employees by 2016.

About 50 to 60 employees at the company’s current American headquarters in Michigan will likely move here, Velazquez said.

Niedrist said the company ultimately chose Portage over other sites because of the strong education system here, which helps to provide training and a strong employment base, along with its nearness to the port and railways.

Daniels praised the move, saying he would cheer any time 500 new jobs came to the state. Daniels said this case is especially important because the jobs are in what many believe to be the growing field of alternative energy.

“We’d rather pay Hoosiers for our energy than elsewhere,” he said.

The move could lead to even more jobs in Northwest Indiana as suppliers for Fronius might choose to relocate to be closer to it, Velazquez said.

The next step is for the Portage Economic Development Corp. to recommend to the Portage City Council to place Fronius in a tax increment finance district. Velazquez said that request likely would be approved soon.

Daniels said about $5 million left over from a federal stimulus project had been used indirectly to encourage Fronius to come to Portage.

Contact Teresa Auch Schultz
at 648-3120.



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