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PCC plays role in luring solar firm

Story by Dana Haynes. Photos by Kristin Watkins.

Tim Harris, CEO of SoloPower, addresses a press conference along with (from left) Portland Mayor Sam Adams, City Councilors Amanda Fritz and Dan Saltzman, and Dave Rule, president of PCC's Rock Creek Campus.

Friday, May 13’s news that Portland will draw an estimated 480 new jobs from the high-tech sector came with an assist from Portland Community College.

SoloPower’s announcement at Portland City Hall was a breath of good news after a long recession and slow recovery. The San Jose, Calif.-based microelectronics firm creates thin-film, light-weight solar panels. If the deal announced Friday is OK’d by the Portland City Council on May 18, the news means an estimated $340 million investment, possibly in north Portland, plus 150 high-paying jobs in the first 12 months and close to 500 new jobs down the road.

Portland Community College’s role will include training the new workforce.

“PCC has a long history of working with industry to get Portlanders skilled-up and ready for advanced manufacturing jobs,” said Dave Rule, president of the PCC Rock Creek Campus in Washington County. Rock Creek is home to the college’s Microelectronics Technology and Photovoltaic programs.

“We stand ready to help with the workforce development and training needs of SoloPower, and look forward to a great partnership,” Rule said Friday at City Hall.

SoloPower would not be PCC’s first venture into the high-tech world. The company joins SolarWorld, Intel, SpectraWatt, Enxco, Solaicx and XsunX among PCC’s industry partners.

Mayor Sam Adams worked behind the scenes to make the deal come together. “SoloPower’s decision furthers Portland’s reputation as a desirable location for internationally known clean-technology companies,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, whose district includes North Portland, echoed that sentiment.

“SoloPower’s announcement is great news for Oregon’s economy and clean-energy future,” he said. “I am proud that the new facility will be manufacturing clean-energy technology right here in Portland and look forward to building a strong federal partnership to the company and its employees.”

Dave Rule, right, and Paige Coleman, executive director of the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods, listens as SoloPower's Tim Harris explains the company's plans.

Dave Squire, chairman of the PCC Board of Directors, is no stranger to the high-tech world. Vice President of Engineering for LightSpeed Technologies in Tualatin, he has worked in the Portland high-tech industry since 1969, holding executive engineering and general management positions at Tektronix, Lightware, InFocus Systems and Planar Systems, among others.

“This partnership fits extremely well with PCC’s existing mission,” Squire said. “Between Microelectronics at Rock Creek and the Electronic Engineering Technology Program at the Sylvania Campus, PCC has positioned itself as the preeminent trainer in the region’s high-tech world.”

Preston Pulliams, president of PCC, said the role of creating a well-trained workforce is an essential part of the college. “The lawmakers I talk to all know this: PCC is part of the solution for rescuing the economy,” Pulliams said. “We’re pleased to welcome SoloPower to Oregon.”