Sen. Wyden has long fought for manufacturers in both Oregon and throughout the United States to be on a level playing field worldwide when it comes to their competitors.
His battle against illegally subsidized Chinese solar companies proved successful on Thursday when SolarWorld announced it plans to add 200 full-time employees over the next nine months, adding a new solar-panel production line and expanding its advanced cell production capacity in Hillsboro.
The $10 million expansion, which brings the company’s total investment in Oregon to nearly $630 million, increases the total number of Oregonians employed at the Washington County facility to about 900.
“What we are seeing today is a textbook case of how enforcing American trade laws can help create family-wage manufacturing jobs,’’ Sen. Wyden said at a news conference to make the announcement in Hillsboro with SolarWorld USA president Mukesh Dulani.
“The bottom line is we have got more evidence that Oregon can compete and Oregon can win in the global economy,” added Sen. Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “We have better workers making high-quality products and they are going to be in demand around the world.”
He also praised SolarWorld both for the addition of 200 high-tech manufacturing jobs back into the Portland-area economy in the next nine months and for fighting the illegal Chinese subsidy of that country’s solar companies.
At the news conference, Dulani took pride in SolarWorld’s growth, its employees and their perseverance in the face of illegal Chinese business practices. He also delivered his “heartfelt thanks” to Sen. Wyden.
“This day marks a great turnaround for this company and we should all be especially proud,” Dulani said. “Today we stand here to say to our workers and to our children … that solar manufacturing is here to stay, and we will fight very hard to make sure it does.”
“Without Senator Wyden’s support, this will not be possible,’’ he said. “He has been a great friend to this company through all of the tough times and we are very happy to have him here today to celebrate our good news.”
After the news conference, Sen. Wyden spoke to about 200 employees at a forum that began with re-hired employees Zach Von Weller and Robert Thatcher presenting Sen. Wyden with a commemorative plaque to say “thank you” for his work supporting the solar industry.
Sen. Wyden spoke at the employee forum about Oregon’s green manufacturing base and the United States standing poised to be a worldwide leader in cutting-edge solar research, development and production.
Sen. Wyden told the employees that he had sounded the alarm three years ago that China was taking America’s “manufacturing jobs” by dumping products in the United States below cost. He said then and now that the trade laws must be used to enforce the rules of free and fair trade.
As a result of investigations by Sen. Wyden’s office, by SolarWorld, and ultimately by the Department of Commerce and the International Trade Commission, the evidence became clear that China was cheating and that Oregon workers were hurt.
These investigations enabled the U.S. government to slap import tariffs -- the enforcement of America’s trade laws -- on solar panels from China.
“The bottom line is these jobs are certainly worth fighting for,” Senator Wyden said, “which is why I am so honored to be a partner in this.”