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AUSTIN-After months of searching nationwide and sparking some controversy on its home turf, HelioVolt Corp. has decided to put its flagship plant in the 122,400-sf Expo 8 building in the Expo Business Park. HelioVolt has signed a 10-year lease for the building in Southeast Austin.

Including the lease, operating costs and renovations to the just-completed shell, HelioVolt will invest more than $100 million to make the building usable for manufacturing thin-film solar products. Robert Langdon, HelioVolt’s VP of marketing, says the company searched the US to find the ideal site.

The company’s management opted for the 240-acre Expo Business Park, located at the intersection of Burleson Road and Montopolis Drive. The park, being developed by Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co.’s Austin team, was selected because “it offered the best combination of time to completion and cost,” Langdon tells GlobeSt.com. “We focused our search in the US with preference given to locations that had a short travel time from Austin, which is where our research and development facility is.”

Local media reported the outside search sparked some alarm that HelioVolt might not only settle its plant outside of Austin, but might move its headquarters out of the area as well. The fact that the company earlier this year closed on $101 million in its Series B funding round, one of the largest ventures seen in Austin, led to the speculation. In the fall, Austin City Council offered HelioVolt more than $600,000 of incentives to build its plant in Austin as long as it met investment and employment targets.

In a press release, HelioVolt’s management says the project will add 150 jobs once the plant is up and running, which will be by mid-2008. Langdon says building modifications will begin soon. The changes include electrical service and a customized HVAC system.

The company will produce photovoltaic modules used in industrial and residential installations. “These could be sold direct, to large customers, or through distribution,” Langdon says.

Langdon confides that preliminary plans are under way for a second plant, which could be ready to start in late 2009 or early 2010. “We’re in discussion with several partners right now,” he says, “and the next plant could very likely be in Europe.”

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