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AUBURN HILLS, MI-A solar panel manufacturer says it will build a new manufacturing facility here. United Solar Ovonic LLC, a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices Inc., will construct a 160,000-sf manufacturing facility in the Auburn Hills Commerce Park near an existing United Solar facility.

Construction of the new facility is expected to begin in July following site plan approvals and issuance of building permits. Completion and occupancy of the newfacility is scheduled for May 2006.

Under a 10-year lease agreement between a unit of Southfield-based General Development Co., General Development will construct the building and serve as the landlord. A portion of the facility will be available in October of this year to begin installation of the new thin-film solar panel manufacturing equipment. When fully operational, the facility is expected to double United Solar Ovonic’s manufacturing capacity and to employ approximately 200 additional people.

“Our investment in United Solar Ovonic is part of our strategy to continue accelerating its growth in the marketplace,” says Stanford R. Ovshinsky, United Solar Ovonic’s chairman and CEO, and Robert C. Stempel, chairman and CEO of ECD Ovonics.

In a joint statement, the men said demand for United Solar’s flexible PV products is increasing. State single business tax credits valued at more than $6.1 million throughout 20 years and a $100,000 economic development job training grant were awarded to the project.

Auburn Hills has proposed a tax abatement valued at $109,100 and is supporting Next Energy personal property tax exemptions for the company that could be worth an estimated $6.9 million throughout the next eight years.

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