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Business/Economy

Panasonic ending partnership with Tesla, costing 400 jobs at Buffalo plant

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Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says he is "disappointed" Panasonic will be ceasing North American solar production and exiting its partnership with Tesla to produce solar panels at the company's Riverbend plant.

The departure is part of a larger decision to end a three-year partnership between Panasonic and Tesla.

In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Brown says he met with Panasonic representatives in his office and was told Panasonic workers will be employed until the end of May and that every employee will be paid severance according to their length of service with the company. Panasonic will also offer two on-site job fairs to help employees find other opportunities.

At the same time, the mayor says he encouraged by Tesla' news that the company has now hired more than 1,500 employees in Buffalo. Empire State Development Chairman Howard Zemsky says the state will be working to verify that number. Under its deal, Tesla has until April to employ at least 1,460 workers at the plant, or else face a more than $40 million penalty.

Brown says the number of affected Panasonic workers is around 400. That number is said to be separate from the number of reported Tesla employees.

“This count does not include the Panasonic positions and — while their operations were co-located at RiverBend — there was no incentive package between the state and Panasonic. We understand that Panasonic has made a corporate decision to move away from global solar products, but this action has no bearing on Tesla’s current operations nor its commitment to Buffalo and New York State, according to Tesla," Zemsky said.

Zemsky says Tesla has indicated it intends to hire as many Panasonic employees as it can. He says the New York State Department of Labor's Rapid Response Team is also ready to help employees impacted by Panasonic’s decision.