news The Project Podcast

Episode 61: Coming To America: World’s Largest Solar Panel Manufacturer Finds A Home In Jacksonville

Episode 61: Coming To America: World’s Largest Solar Panel Manufacturer Finds A Home In Jacksonville

Episode 61: Coming To America: World’s Largest Solar Panel Producer Finds A House In Jacksonville

August 13, 2019

In line with the US-based, Photo voltaic Power Industries Association, solar power has skilled a mean annual progress fee of 50% over the previous decade. Jinko Solar, a Chinese company based just 13 years in the past in 2006, has emerged as the most important manufacturer of photo voltaic power panels on the earth. Jinko employs 13,500 individuals and has eight factories across the globe that produced an estimated 30 million panels in 2018. But what they didn’t have was a US manufacturing presence.

That each one modified up to now yr with Jinko’s choice to construct a $50 million manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida. For at this time’s story we interview Jinko Solar’s Jeff Juger, the JAXUSA Partnership’s Aaron Bowman and Florida Energy & Mild’s Crystal Stiles. The episode consists of tales of a rain-drenched financial developer, a flat tire while touring with the company and a Sunday morning website inspection arranged on the last minute.

Endurance Fairbrother (DCI): The solar-energy business is experiencing explosive progress. Based on the U.S.-based Photo voltaic Power Industries Association, photo voltaic has experienced a mean annual progress fee of 50% over the past decade.

Andy Levine (DCI): Jinko Solar, a Chinese firm based simply 13 years in the past, in 2006, has emerged as the most important producer of solar-energy panels on the earth. Jinko employs 13,500 individuals and has eight factories across the globe that produced an estimated 30 million panels in 2018.

Endurance: But what they didn’t have previous to 2018 was a U.S. manufacturing presence, and that’s where at the moment’s story begins.

Andy: So, welcome to episode 61 of “The Undertaking, Inside Corporate Location Selections.” I’m Andy Levine of Improvement Counsellors International.

Endurance: And I’m Endurance Fairbrother, additionally at DCI, and Andy’s co-host of the undertaking. This week, we deliver you the story of Jinko Photo voltaic and their determination to construct a 50-million-dollar manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida. The power opened lower than a yr ago, in November 2018.

Andy: We’ll start our story with Jeff Juger, a 34-year-old government who’s been in the photo voltaic business for 9 years up to now 4 years with Jinko Solar. His title is Director of Enterprise Improvement, but from our perspective, he was the U.S.-based member of the site-selection group for this venture. Actually, this was the first site-selection search that Jeff had ever been involved with. We asked him to offer us the elevator speech about Jinko Photo voltaic.

Jeff Juger (Jinko Solar): Jinko is indeed the world’s largest producer of photo voltaic panels. We’ve been publicly traded on the New York Inventory Change since 2010, we sell in 108 nations now. We’ve bought extra photo voltaic panels than another firm globally for each of the last three years, and we anticipate that to proceed. Our clients trust us as a result of we all the time do what we are saying, we never break commitments, we produce very high-quality solar panels, and we deliver them at an on-time price of 99.9%, which is a reasonably astonishing feat.

Andy: You’re obviously a fast-growing company. I gather you could have manufacturing amenities all over the world however the facility in the U.S., that is the primary one that you’ve sited. Are you able to tell us about, I don’t know, kind of the choice to set up a producing facility in america?

Jeff: So I’ll take that in two elements, one concerning the progress and the opposite how we obtained thus far in the U.S. So we’re continuing to grow all throughout the globe. In 2016, we have been ranked 16th within the “Fortune Magazine” listing of the 100 fastest-growing public corporations, and we’ve continued that very fast progress since then. So we have now a variety of capability in Malaysia and, as we are increasing, we felt that the U.S. was a mandatory place to spend money on further enlargement.

And another cool profit of getting a manufacturing unit within the U.S. is that clients who won’t wanna journey all the best way to the other aspect of the world to see our facility can now hop on over to Florida and check out our capabilities pretty shortly. Building a manufacturing unit within the U.S. was undoubtedly no small feat and we did it at a very fast pace, which we expect was one other signal to our clients about our dedication to the U.S. market.

Endurance: So Jinko solar is in the very early levels of a site-location search.

Jeff: As a result of the U.S. is so massive, we undoubtedly wanted to slender our focus, notably as a result of the time line was going so shortly. So the consensus was that the south-east was a great place to start out the search, primarily often because it’s one of many fastest-growing regions for photo voltaic. We needed to be situated in an area the place there can be robust progress. We toured a bunch of cities within the southeast and met with key officials in all those locations. Everyone was tremendous hospitable.

Endurance: The state of Florida was not included in the preliminary website search however that modified when Florida Energy & Mild and their dad or mum company NextEra Power turned conscious of Jinko’s plans to build a manufacturing facility in america. Florida Power & Mild had ordered seven million photo voltaic panels from Jinko Photo voltaic and that helped them get Jinko’s attention. Here’s Crystal Stiles, Director of Economic Improvement for Florida Energy & Mild.

Crystal Stiles (Florida Power & Mild): We have been talking with lots of our distributors. You understand, whenever you’re deploying that many solar panels, we’re buying from a number of providers, and so, we spoke with many. And Jinko was very excited concerning the opportunity that existed in Florida and in different places across the U.S.

Andy: You then stated, you understand, it’s necessary that these be made in america, but even better, let’s make them in Florida.

Crystal: Completely. We’re headquartered right here in Florida, we love Florida. You recognize, my process, as an financial improvement practitioner inside Florida Energy & Mild company is to encourage enterprise investment in Florida. And so, you recognize, our main business aim was to deliver a provider to the U.S.

Andy: Now, website selection is usually targeted on knowledge, and numbers, and building a business case. But typically there’s a comic story that makes the career a bit more human. And such is the case with Crystal’s first meeting with Jinko.

Crystal: I had very little discover that I was going to pitch Jinko. Our Vice President of Supply Chain is a superb associate and actually acknowledges the facility that, you realize, the suppliers that we contract with can convey to Florida. And so, he referred to as and he stated, “Hey, are you able to come and pitch this firm?”

So I’m driving to the office and we had somewhat bit of a parking drawback on the time, we have been type of in progress mode and we simply had parking challenges. So I ended up, not precisely double parking, however I feel I used to be parked near a fireplace hydrant, and I simply pulled over on the aspect of the street, jumped out and ran to the meeting.

Andy: The things an economic developer will do.

Crystal: Absolutely, I had to make the pitch. I had to make the pitch, it didn’t matter. I was on corporate headquarters property, so I simply assumed I used to be wonderful. So I run into the meeting and I really feel prefer it’s going nicely. And so, we started speaking by way of Florida’s worth proposition, and I’m making an attempt not to take a look at my telephone, however I begin to see it lighting up and there’s a number that just calls me over and again and again.

After which, my e mail starts pinging, and I’m ignoring it as a result of I’m full-on economic-development pitch. Right? After which, my boss calls me. And then, she texts me and she or he says, “Company security is making an attempt to get in touch with you because they’re gonna tow your automotive since you’re parked too close to the hearth hydrant.”

Andy: So Crystal calmly requested if they could take a 5-minute break from the discussions and she or he headed out to maneuver her automotive.

Crystal: So I ran out, moved my automotive. Nicely, as it does typically in Florida, the time it took me to get in my automotive and relocate my automotive, it began raining sideways.

Andy: Oh, no.

Crystal: And I didn’t have an umbrella in the automotive. And so, I leap out of the automotive, I run back within the workplace and, in the 5 seconds it took me to get into the workplace, I’m totally soaked. Simply utterly drenched. So I stroll again within the conference room and I appear to be Crystal, I nonetheless have on the go well with that I had on once I walked into the assembly, however now I’m drenched.

My hair is drenched, I’m actually simply dripping. And I stroll in the convention room and I sit back right down to resume a meeting. And the management workforce type of looked at me, like “What occurred to you within the 5 minutes that we took a break? That is very bizarre.”

Endurance: Crystal feared that might be the top of the dialogue, however it wasn’t. And Jinko Solar stored wanting but they added several Florida communities to their listing of prospects. Let’s return to Jeff Juger.

Andy: What have been the three most essential elements in the location determination?

Jeff: The three most necessary elements within the location choice have been entry to a deep water port, evidence of a thriving enterprise group, and a quality-labor pool. At a minimal, we knew we needed to be near a deep water port since a number of the supplies used to assemble solar panels nonetheless come from abroad. And because we have been shifting quick, we additionally wanted to have actual property out there to us. So once we had those basic items out, we whittled right down to a handful of cities. And then from there, it was evaluating the enterprise surroundings and availability of labor. And that’s how we went concerning the course of.

Andy: You mentioned actual estate, I’m assuming you needed an present facility with this aggressive time-frame. Yes?

Jeff: That’s right, we would have liked an empty building. And preferably a new constructing as a result of solar panel manufacturing amenities have very particular requirements. And if there was present gear or infrastructure inside, we’d need to tear that out, and then, put ours in. And so, ideally, it was an empty constructing for us to customize the best way we noticed fit.

Endurance: So Jinko Solar had narrowed the sector to 6 finalist communities, including Jacksonville, Florida. And working the undertaking for the area was Aaron Bowman, Senior Vice President with the JAXUSA Partnership.

Aaron (JAXUSA Partnership): It was an fascinating first go to, it was truly the day after the Florida-Georgia recreation. They usually stated, “We’ve identified a constructing out there and we’d like to take a look at them on Sunday morning at 9 o’clock.” So we truly confirmed them, at the time, two buildings, one of the necessities that we had a facility that was already out there. And so, we had an 800,000 square foot constructing and a 400,000 square foot constructing that we showed them.

Andy: Is that standard routine for you to show one thing on a Sunday morning like that?

Aaron: It’s normally not on a Sunday, and I feel I acquired that decision on Thursday afternoon. And you may imagine, making an attempt to get the…displaying brokers and the house owners to agree to return open up a building. They usually did and we spent about an hour in every building. Actually, who they introduced with them, it was a gaggle of about 5 or 6, I feel two of them spoke English, the remainder of them didn’t. However you possibly can inform what they have been taking a look at, and the questions they’re asking, and the supply, and things, that it was a very critical buyer.

Andy: Did that make it tougher than that you simply have been working with somebody who, you realize, was an enormous established company but this was their first go-round wanting on the U.S.?

Aaron: Oh, it was very very challenging. Think about should you needed to go open a company up in China, what you would wish to know. So I imply there were many issues we had to stroll them by way of and make sure they understood permitting questions, OSHA questions, HR questions, utility questions. I’ve acquired a overseas piece of kit, “How do I get it licensed to use in america? How do I discover builders? What sort of insurance coverage do I want?” So actually, we have been overlaying your complete scope of what it might take for his or her first step into the U.S. market to rise up and operating. They usually had a very tight schedule too.

Endurance: We asked Jeff Juger what made Jacksonville stand out from the other communities that made the brief record. He talked concerning the port, he talked concerning the labor market, and he talked concerning the real-estate choices in the region. But he additionally highlighted the strategy that JAXUSA took to profitable the challenge.

Jeff: Truthfully, I feel it was this human touch and the enterprise group that basically stood out. I feel the most effective expertise we had was on our first visit, JAXUSA introduced pretty much everyone and anyone we might’ve probably had a query for into the room. And any question that we had was immediately answered. In loads of different places, the answers have been, “We’ll get again to you on that.” And so, we felt like from an urgency and useful resource perspective, Jacksonville stood out.

Endurance: Jeff also described a street trip that the site-selection workforce made with JAXUSA President Jerry Mallot.

Jeff: Through the process, we, you understand, have been negotiating with Enterprise] Florid and because we have been unfamiliar with the process, the president of JAXUSA, back then it was Jerry Mallot, he volunteered to drive us from Jacksonville to Tallahassee.  He even obtained a flat tire on the best way and we fastened that and went on, nevertheless it was only a journey that we gained’t overlook anytime quickly as a result of it simply showed us the dedication that JAXUSA needed to helping us across the end line.

Andy: Who fastened the tire?

Jeff: We have been on the freeway and we happened across, fortunately, a, you already know, a tire-repair shop. And so, while Jerry was negotiating the tire restore, I and the opposite two gentlemen from China have been munching on some gummy bears within the backseat.

Andy: As we talked about at the beginning of the podcast, this was the first and solely site-selection search that Jeff had ever been involved with. So, as the final word in at the moment’s episode, we asked him what have been his most important takeaways from the expertise.

Jeff: It’s really easy to get caught in the particulars and it’s not all the time straightforward to keep the large picture in thoughts. What I mean by that’s, and there’s a lot of variables, obviously, in where you would choose, so for example, it was very easy to get stuck on a specific facet like once we have been negotiating utility rates. Just because one metropolis’s utility is providing you rock-bottom rates doesn’t mean that the labor pool will essentially be enough in your wants.

So, you understand, we ended up with Jacksonville as a result of they stand out from loads of those essential elements. And so, that might be my massive takeaway is to see the bigger picture, perceive that there’s a number of variables at work, and just because one specific variable is going rather well in a single specific city doesn’t imply that the general image is the most effective.

Endurance: Jinko Photo voltaic started manufacturing in its new manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Florida, in November, 2018. The company dedicated to hiring over 200 individuals and, in accordance with Jeff, they’re properly over that quantity already. They’re now producing two panels each minute, 7 days every week, 365 days per yr.

Andy: There’s one coda to our story. Now you may assume that Florida Power & Mild is offering the electrical power to Jinko to supply all of those solar panels. It turns out that’s not the case. The Metropolis of Jacksonville has its own utility referred to as JEA they usually provide energy to Jinko. However that’s okay with Florida Energy & Mild. As Crystal Stiles informed us, quote, “A business succeeding anyplace in the state is sweet for our enterprise, whether or not they’re our customer or not,” unquote.

Endurance: So, Andy, we are as much as the takeaways portion of the episode.

Andy: Yes, we’re. Here we are.

Endurance: So, to begin with, what an fascinating firm and a very fascinating undertaking? Was the corporate appearing alone or did they work with an advisor or marketing consultant on the challenge?

Andy: Good question. There was a consulting firm, it was out of South Carolina, really extra of a regulation agency, a site-selection marketing consultant. In order that they did have some steerage and, from what I gathered from Jeff, that company was very useful in serving to them kind of find a path in the U.S.

Endurance: So another question here, they have been on a very tight timeline. From what you stated, the company launched its search in November, 2017, introduced the Jacksonville location in March, 2018, and is now making their first solo panels there beginning November, 2018. So what was driving this tight timeline?

Andy: You realize, a part of it I feel simply the company and the company culture. They moved fast and, you realize, they’ve clearly achieved an incredible amount in just, you realize, being in enterprise for 13 years. However the U.S. market was also just growing very very rapidly for them. They needed to point out a dedication to the market, they felt it was essential to determine a U.S. manufacturing presence. And that’s what they did.

Endurance: So, on the topic of finding within the U.S., there’s been lots of protection on the present trade conflict with China. Did that have an effect on the challenge, out of your perspective?

Andy: Nice question. And this was a bit bit tough to get into with Jinko. However there was a brand new tariff introduced in January, 2018, a tariff on photo voltaic panels. What Jeff principally advised me was that did speed up and kind of pressed for the will to be making photo voltaic panels within the U.S. The challenge in all probability would’ve happened with out that nevertheless it did kind of press the timeline and moved issues along quicker.

Endurance: So that may be a wrap on episode 61 of “The Challenge, Inside Company Location Selections.”

Andy: Our honest because of Jeff Juger of Jinko Photo voltaic, Aaron Bowman of the JAXUSA Partnership, and Crystal Stiles of Florida Energy & Mild.

Endurance: We also need to thank Lyndsay Rossman, also of JAXUSA Partnership, for establishing all of those interviews.

Andy: The undertaking is sponsored by DCI, we’re the leader in advertising locations and have served over 450 totally different cities, states, regions, and nations. You possibly can study extra about us at

Endurance: We hope you’ll maintain listening. There are numerous extra tasks to return.