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Solar cell equipment maker plans 125 jobs at Manatee plant


BRADENTON - A maker of equipment to produce solar cells said Monday it is planning a manufacturing operation in Manatee County that is expected to create 125 new jobs in the next two years.

A press release from the Manatee County Economic Development Council said the jobs will pay an average annual wage of more than $44,000.

The company, Mustang Vacuum Systems LLC, said it's relocating and expanding its manufacturing into Manatee County from Sarasota County. The new site will be at the Sarasota Commerce Center in south Manatee, and the 50,000-square-foot facility will let it grow.

The company employs 25 people at its Sarasota location and will be opening the Manatee location by the end of 2009.

"Mustang was located in Sarasota County for four years, and in partnership with Sarasota County, Manatee County government and the State of Florida, we were able to keep this fine company - and its growing number of higher-wage jobs - in the region," said EDC executive director Eric Basinger in the press release.

The company will expand the production of thin-film solar photovoltaic cell equipment, said Mustang Vacuum Systems president Richard Greenwell.

With the goal of reducing solar energy costs, the company has designed and built three types of machines to meet the needs and specifications of solar cell manufacturers. Customers are now looking for larger, higher volume machines, which will provide greater performance and output, he said.

Mustang's expanded production capacity will drive down the cost of solar energy for consumers by incorporating technologies into solar cell production that will reduce costs as well as increase efficiency of the cells, he added.

Greenwell said the company plans to increase its staff to 150 by the end of 2011.

With help from the EDC and consultant Ryan Inc., Mustang successfully applied for state and local grants to help with the expansion. The grants will be expended based on the company's performance in creating the new jobs at the anticipated salaries.

"We are excited to be relocating and expanding our manufacturing facility in Manatee County," Greenwell said. "With the EDC's assistance, we were able to locate a facility and secure a grant from Manatee County. This will reduce some costs of our technology project, which is geared toward lowering the cost and increasing the efficiency of solar cells so that clean, renewable solar energy can be a viable choice for everyone."


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