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Skepticism greets Solar City's hiring plans

WBFO News/file photo

Solar City officials met a skeptical audience in an East Side auditorium last night as they talked about the company's plans for the Riverbend complex in South Buffalo.

Speaking to a meeting in a Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority auditorium, Solar City senior vice president Damien Scott the company plans to hire about 500 workers for the plant and another thousand or so for jobs outside the facility, such as installers.

Scott admits the full production schedule has slipped a little because of the lag time between when the high-tech manufacturing equipment is ordered and when it is delivered. He says most of the dozen current job openings require high-tech degrees and experience, but as the staff grows they will be hiring both high-skill and low-skill workers.

Many in attendance were skeptical of the benefits of the project, and who would get the jobs, because so many require specialized degrees. Diane Woodard said that "they should be doing what they said they're going to do... try to get the jobs here, try to get the people involved, and that's not happening."

Cheri Orf, head of training and development for Solar City, says the company is working with South Park High School to train workers for solar panel installation under the P-Tech program. "South Park High School had a 37 percent graduation rate... the students that go through P-Tech... if they stick around for the first six months of it, there's a 97 percent graduation rate."

Orf says there will be 48 students starting the combined high school and ECC program in September.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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