OUR VIEW: Future in doubt, but United Solar made a difference

By Daily News • Last Updated 10:55 am on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We’re all hoping for the best, but the outlook isn’t good for the future of United Solar Ovonics in Greenville. While we wish things were different, the fact is we are living in a time where nothing is guaranteed. That could be said for all the times we’ve lived in, but it is always more painful in the present.

As for United Solar and Greenville, it hasn’t been a bad ride at all. People who took advantage of the opportunity presented by forward-looking USO received invaluable screening and training with Montcalm Community College and even more by the company itself. The experience has spurred confidence and the desire to keep moving forward in folks who perhaps would not otherwise have been inspired to do so.

Is United Solar Ovonics a bad deal for the area? We don’t think so. For starters, here are some comments by employees who have walked the walk …

Stacey Waldron Cooper, Sheridan: “It has given me a place to work for the last 4+ years…”

Hugo Cinco: “It was a great place to work and I miss it and all the great people there…”

Ben Weston of Stanton: “I work there, and for the last 4+ years they gave me a job and it has been awesome, people can argue all they want and complain about USO, but most who badmouth and complain have not worked there. Mistakes were made, but I’ve been given the chance to work there.”

USO’s troubles have stemmed from its dependence on the European economy, which was expected to be its largest market. Governments there already underwater from a sputtering economy and huge public entitlement liabilities have had to cancel their support for development of alternative energy.

America faces similar challenges and continues to struggle with limited budgets and lingering unemployment. The extended downturn in building construction has also inhibited the growth of new technologies.

Here in Greenville, a few years ago, the world’s largest refrigerator plant — parts of which were 100 years old — was closed and demolished by its owner and we were left with a barricaded field most likely soiled by chemical contamination.

But today, not far away in a new industrial park stands a state-of-the-art hundred-plus million dollar industrial complex presumably adaptable to a number of uses should USO not survive.

The roofs of Greenville Public Schools have been equipped with revenue-generating solar panels that will pay for themselves and generate income for years to come. They also provide an on-site laboratory for applied science programs in the school system. This was made possible by the very generous participation of United Solar Ovonics.

City of Greenville municipal facilities likewise are equipped with solar power generation, also with participation by USO, and likely with similar financial benefit.

The United Solar people have been great for this community and Greenville has in turn welcomed and embraced its new neighbor. The future may be doubtful, but we’re cheering for you, USO.

Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.

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