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SolarWorld to lay off 100 workers at Hillsboro solar plant

SolarWorld has notified the State of Oregon that it intends to lay off approximately 100 employees at its Hillsboro solar panel manufacturing plant.

Ben Santarris, the company's head of public relations, says the layoffs represent the final phase of an operational restructuring plan that began in February. Santarris says the company expects to employ around 650 workers at the plant after the restructuring is completed.

SolarWorld, based in Germany, is also restructuring its financing, and expects to complete its financial restructuring late this year or early next year.

According to Santarris, both restructuring plans are in response to what he terms "illegal" competition from Chinese manufacturers who are selling solar products below cost in he United States and Europe.

The U.S. Department of Commerce has upheld a trade complaint against the Chinese manufacturers filed by SolarWorld and others. Although the federal government has imposed tariffs on the Chinese manufacturers, Santarris says that has not completely stopped the import of the government-subsidized Chinese products.

"They have slowed down, but not as much as the prices have continued to drop," says Santarris.

SolarWorld notified the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development about the layoffs on July 2. The notification is required by the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. It says the layoffs are permanent, and are expected to occur on or about Aug. 31.

The notification was sent around the same time that SolarWorld released a report documenting its contribution to the local, state and national economy.

The report says the company purchased more than $240 million in goods and services from other manufacturers and employers in 46 states in 2012. Oregon was the largest affected state, with $71 million in purchases, followed by Washington at $45 million, California at $43 million, Pennsylvania at $18.7 million, and Minnesota at $18.6 million.