The nation is working to diversify its energy sources, and Idaho is working to diversify its economy. These two trends come together in the City of Pocatello, soon to be the site of a $220 million polysilicon production plant. The plant will produce a highly pure form of silicon, the key material used to make solar cells.
The plant will be built by Hoku Materials, a division of Hoku Scientific. When it initiates operation in 2008, the plant will have a payroll of 200. Hoku Materials is interested in partnering with Idaho State University to develop a highly trained “ready workforce” that will help improve college graduate retention rates. The infusion of high-paying manufacturing and technical jobs is expected to reduce the out-migration of the area’s skilled workforce, and complement the employment opportunities in other sectors. National businesses with a local presence include Heinz Frozen Food, Union Pacific Railroad, and AMI Semiconductor.
An array of state and local institutions have worked together to attract high-technology companies to southeastern Idaho. These institutions include Idaho Commerce & Labor, Bannock Development Corporation, the City of Pocatello, and Idaho State University. The state has offered $1.2 million in workforce training funds to Hoku Materials and $200,000 to the City of Pocatello to offset public facility costs necessary to facilitate Hoku’s plans. In addition, tax increment financing has been made available through the Pocatello Development Authority.
Mayor Roger Chase of the City of Pocatello stated, “Having worked closely with the company’s management team over the past several months, we are excited to have them become part of the Pocatello community.”
“The support of Mayor Chase and the Bannock Development Corporation helped seal the deal,” said Idaho Commerce & Labor director Roger B. Madsen. “Hoku’s advancements in the area of fuel cell technology hold a lot of potential for partnerships with the Idaho National Lab. A project like this and any additional spin-offs could help move our state into the next generation of energy development.”