New Boviet Solar Panels manufacturing plant in Greenville

Published 8:01 am Wednesday, May 15, 2024

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Almost 25 years ago, I decided to get involved in politics. I was specifically concerned with the loss of jobs and government in Beaufort County. I believed then and now that a strong manufacturing base is important to America.

I eventually was voted on the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission by the Board of Commissioners. It was a highly active and involved advisory committee. I enjoyed being on the committee and performing volunteer work.

Beaufort County had several large manufacturing plants. National Spinning and Hamilton Beach were the largest. None of the present manufacturers approach them in size and impact on the community, though businesses have been added over the years through the efforts of Beaufort County Economic Development, the City of Washington and the Committee of 100.

The primary reason that much of manufacturing left America is the emergence of China. This occurred because of unfair trade practices, cheap labor, dumping and greed. Much of the U.S. equipment, vehicles, planes and things we buy depend on Chinese-made components.

On April 26, Gov. Roy Cooper announced that Boviet Solar will be locating its first solar panel manufacturing plant in Greenville. Boviet will invest $294 million and create 908 new jobs.

With Chinese backing, Boviet Solar Panels was established in Vietnam 12 years ago. Chinese materials manufacturing group Boway Group, owns Vietnam-based Boviet Solar Panels.

According to the Boviet Solar Website, “The PV module manufacturing facility will produce Boviet Solar’s TOPCon N-Type cell, technology-based Monofacial and Bifacial PV modules for residential, commercial, industrial, and utility-scale U.S. clients.”

On Aug. 18, 2023, the U.S. Department of Commerce found that certain Chinese producers were shipping their solar products through Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and/or Vietnam for minor processing in an attempt to avoid paying antidumping and countervailing duties.

Boviet Solar was investigated but not included on the list.

First Solar and Q Cells are the two largest U.S. manufacturer of solar panels. There is a total of 16 listed in America. U.S. manufacturers are seeking trade restrictions to protect domestic industry from what they claim are unviable prices.

In 2022, China accounted for 78 percent of all solar panels manufactured. The U.S. accounts for 1.9 percent of all solar panels.

In 2022, VinFast, a Vietnamese electric automotive manufacturer, announced their first U.S. automotive manufacturing plant in Rutherford County, N.C. The $4 billion investment is the largest in N.C. history and will create 7,500 jobs. VinFast is listed on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange as VFS and is presently valued at $6.76 billion. I consider it a start-up backed by a billionaire.

I congratulate Greenville on attracting a major manufacturer. The average salary for the 908 jobs will exceed Pitt County’s average wage of $50,937.

I’m not happy with a Chinese-connected company coming to Greenville. I am happy about the jobs being created. Vietnam is a communist country.

Most of the large manufacturing facilities added in North Carolina are foreign owned. Many companies that were U.S. owned are now foreign owned. I would like to see more focus on economic growth of new and existing companies owned and operated by Americans.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.