Written by John Szozda
Sunday, 02 November 2008 11:48
Before you touch the screen on the COSI levy, ask yourself this question. Are you willing to bet $5 that more local jobs will be created in the solar and green energy fields than in the auto industry?
That’s new jobs.
If you think the auto industry will drive future growth, vote no and buy five lottery tickets. You have as much chance to win today as the auto industry has in creating new jobs in Northwest Ohio.
On the other hand, Northwest Ohio is the perceived leader in solar technology. First Solar recently announced a $123 million plant expansion expected to add 130 jobs and the sale of 1.4 million solar panels to a California firm. Xunlight Corporation recently secured $40 million in investment. Moreover, the federal government renewed the 30 percent tax credit for residential solar use which will help spur sales.
While the 100-year-old auto industry is looking for a bailout, the solar industry is looking for more than a few educated men and women. See for yourself. Go to www.firstsolar.com and www.xunlight.com. Here’s what you’ll find. There are 99 job openings between the two companies. They’re for people with a background in science and electrical, mechanical, material and process engineering.
Here’s one line from one job description to give you an idea of what they’re looking for: “Improve and optimize laser scribe process and develop next generation laser process.”
Toledo has a promising foothold in a fledgling field that addresses three of our nation’s critical concerns: reducing greenhouse emissions, becoming energy independent and creating manufacturing jobs which in turn creates wealth and a healthier middle class.
Solar manufacturing can help diversify our economy. These two companies are already sending products all over the world much like American auto companies did in the past. But, you have to ask, what will keep them here?
Of course, the usual—access to transportation, low taxes and reasonable utilities. And one more critical resource—people with science and engineering skills. And, not average engineers. This is not a mature field in which companies can make a profit on making products that are “just good enough.” These are leaders in a fast-moving, highly competitive new field. Those who secure the top two positions become the dominant players, reap the highest rewards and produce the most jobs.
There is no doubt whatsoever that this potential to secure these jobs for our future is worth a $5 bet. Actually, the bet is $5.21 per $100,000 home value per year for five years. This money will keep COSI, Toledo’s science and industry center, open. If the levy fails, the center will be dismantled and a critical piece to securing these jobs will be lost.
Now, I know, you don’t want to pay more taxes, particularly, in this economy. And, I know you’ve already said no to COSI twice. Emphatically. In the last levy attempt, 21 of 22 precincts in Oregon and Jerusalem Township voted no. I can only assume the reason is you have the impression COSI is simply a science museum, a place where science education is fun.
COSI is more that that. There are hands-on programs that spark the imagination of kids who will grow to know what the laser scribe process is, portable exhibits that travel to schools and teacher training. All of these things create the love of exploration and the need to know how things work. This exciting and fun stuff is what motivates a young student to tackle the rigorous science, math and engineering classroom work required for the jobs of the future.
Both officials from First Solar and Xunlight have committed to new alternative energy exhibits should the levy pass. These exhibits could help bring the dream of high paying local jobs within the grasp of your family.
For the cost of a few lottery tickets you can help develop a new manufacturing field as a hedge against the loss of automotive jobs. Given the recent loss of 750 jobs at the Daimler Chrysler Jeep plant in Toledo and the subsequent supplier jobs lost at Johnson Controls and Faurecia in Northwood that $5.21 is a good investment.
If you still have doubts, the levy’s for only five years. If the solar industry dims, defeat it then.