Obama encourages job growth brought by the alternative energy sector

First Solar stock rebounds in market rally

The solar energy sector received an endorsement from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama Monday as he detailed his economic plan at a stop in Ohio.

“We’ll take a page from Toledo that has become a leader in solar panel technology,” said Obama (D-IL). “We are going to create 5 million new high wage jobs by investing in the renewable sources of energy that will eliminate the need for oil we currently import from the Middle East in ten years.”

Ohio lost 254,000 manufacturing jobs in the last decade, many in the automotive industry, and in August the unemployment rate had risen .2% to 7.4% compared to July, according to the Department of Jobs and Family Services. But in recent years, the renewable energy sector has stepped in to fill some of those manufacturing jobs.

First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR), a solar panel and power company with a manufacturing facility across the river from Toledo in Perrysburg, has become one of the largest contributors to job growth in Ohio. The current plant employs 700 people and after the 500,000 square feet expansion of manufacturing, research and development, and office space, another 134 jobs will be added. Currently, over 100 available jobs with wages starting at over $50,000 a year have been posted.

Though First Solar lost 67% of share value from its 52-wk high of $317 during the recent crisis, it rebounded during Monday’s market rally. Shares rose $26.52 or 22.58% to 143.97 but dropped 86 cents at Tuesday’s close.

First Solar, like other renewable energy companies, have benefitted from the incentives created by an Ohio that wanted a new crew of “green-collared workers.” The State repealed business tax laws, began to offer low-interest loans, and mandated that at least 25% of electricity sold in Ohio be generated from new and advanced technologies by 2025.

Unless Ohio has any oil to drill, Obama’s appeal to voters through the kind of job creation that results from renewable energy source, and not fossil fuels, could be decisive in a state still up for grabs this presidential election.

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