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Wood County leaders relieved First Solar buys vacant building

Posted By: The Toledo Blade on January 18, 2024.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

Wood County leaders said Thursday they were relieved that a reliable local company had purchased the massive former Peloton building and surrounding land.

First Solar Inc. — headquartered in Arizona but with much of its domestic panel manufacturing, research, and development operations in Wood County — confirmed Wednesday that it was buying the more than one-million-square-foot Troy Township building, The location was initially built to manufacture exercise equipment before Peloton pulled back on its expansion plans in 2022 and put the property on the market.

Property records show First Solar bought the building last week, along with some surrounding land, for $33 million. The company said it would use the space initially as a warehouse, and later for light manufacturing.

“I’m happy it’s First Solar,” Troy Township trustee Skip Recker said, noting multiple people have looked at the former Peloton site. “It is a relief. I’m glad it’s a nice local company we can work with.”

The waiting was difficult, he said, but township officials had been in regular contact with the Wood County Economic Development Commission and were confident a new owner would be found.

Wood County commissioner Doris Herringshaw said she was pleased that the existing building on the site would be used. The site is just north of the Home Depot Distribution Center as well as Pilkington Glass’ manufacturing plant.

“I’m glad somebody can take a building that is already pretty much together, and make it useful for whatever they need it to be,” she said.

Brent Welker, Eastwood Local Schools superintendent, said First Solar has a good track record with area districts, such as Lake.

“It’s great news for the district. First Solar has been an outstanding partner to our neighbors to the north,” he said.

The district recently received its first tax abatement check for the property. The $389,000 was paid by POP Real Estate Holdings, the property holding company for Peloton that sold to First Solar. POP still owns more than 100 acres near the building, property records show.

Mr. Welker in December said he was so unsure about the Peloton tax abatement payment being received that it was not in the district’s 2024-25 budget, which totals $21 million. On Thursday, he said the $389,000 will go into the general fund.

Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said the Peloton building and surrounding acreage was a prime location for developers.

“It is a great location, with great utilities and infrastructure access,” he said.

He is happy that First Solar bought it, calling the company a “fantastic corporate citizen in Wood County.”

Wood County has a fair amount of sites in this 100-acre range, he said, but not all are in the ready-to-develop stage. The Peloton site was also unusual in that it had the almost-finished building on it, he said.

Mr. Gottschalk said there is a lot of acreage in Wood County that could be developed, but most is not zoned for industrial or manufacturing, or even for sale.

“There’s obviously a lot of opportunity there throughout the county,” he said. “We’re just glad First Solar made this acquisition.”

First Solar’s purchase is the latest in a series of big domestic investments by the firm since mid-2022.

The company produces advanced thin film photovoltaics for commercial and residential users, and is one of the country’s largest solar panel makers, operating in an industry dominated by players outside the United States.

Those big domestic investments have included new manufacturing plants in Alabama and Louisiana. Locally, it has included a $270 million research and development center in Perrysburg Township, and a $185 million investment to grow production capacity across its existing trio of northwest Ohio manufacturing facilities.

The company has been on a spending tear in large part thanks to 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act, which provided big federal incentives for clean energy including solar power manufacturing. The company also has offices and plants outside the United States, and recently announced a new facility in India.

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