The Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce in Michigan prides itself on supporting its member companies. Several years ago, chamber leaders saw Hemlock Semiconductor, one of its largest members, ramp up investment in polycrystalline, a critical component of solar panels. Other chamber members such as Dow Corning Research and Dow Chemical were investing in solar as well.
“We reflected on how we could grow the solar business in Michigan,” said Veronica Horn, Executive Vice President, Government Affairs, at the Saginaw Chamber. “But then we learned that there’s more solar potential in Michigan then there is in Germany, one of the largest producers and consumers of solar power in the world.”
Working hand-in-hand with Saginaw Future, the economic development agency for Saginaw County, the two organizations decided to try to increase demand for solar in Michigan by working with local governments to streamline permitting processes for companies interested in installing renewables. They launched four “Solar Ready Community” pilot projects using the streamlined permitting processes and helped develop the infrastructure necessary for local businesses to install solar panels.
The program is working: other solar supply chain companies have moved into the region and Saginaw Future has built a large clean energy manufacturing park called Great Lakes Tech Park that serves as a business accelerator for clean tech.