Mar 102008
 
Authors: Cece Wildeman

AVA Solar announced Thursday that they have abandoned plans to build a new manufacturing facility at the southwest corner of I-25 and Prospect Road.

The city traded land to the CSU Research Foundation, with plans to develop the new research center. The land would have also been used by AVA Solar to build a new manufacturing facility for energy and cost efficient solar panels.

The company said it still plans to produce the modules at their existing Fort Collins location, but that their new facility will now be located in Longmont, Colo.

Dave Halter, vice president of AVA Solar, said in a statement that there were various reasons the plans were dropped.

“First, we were able to lease the building next door to us in Fort Collins, giving us the space necessary to get into production in 2008 earlier than we thought. Second, it became clear that building a new facility from scratch would take longer than we could afford given existing market conditions. Third, we identified an existing building perfect for our needs that could start receiving production equipment arriving in April of this year,” he said.

Doug Hutchinson, mayor of Fort Collins, said that the move was disappointing and that not knowing the base of that business decision was frustrating.

“This was certainly not a desirable thing to have happen,” he said. “But a positive thing is that the land swap with CSU presents a new opportunity for other new energy projects.”

Fort Collins is a leader in renewable energy research and development and AVA has disadvantaged itself by choosing not to build its new facility in a place that has so many opportunities for synergy, Hutchinson said.

While CSU was hoping that AVA would be an anchor tenant at the facility, it does not change the university’s plans to build the research campus, said Brad Bohlander, university spokesperson.

“The research campus is in its master planning stages,” he said.

Although the university is currently talking to companies that could potentially replace AVA as a tenant, AVA would have played an important role at the research center, said Kathleen Henry, president and CEO of the CSU Research Foundation.

“It would have fit very nicely with what we want to do and they are one of Fort Collins’ homegrown companies,” she said.

But Henry says he is confident that CSURF will find many other companies interested in building a facility in the area and that eventually AVA will relocate their headquarters to the area.

While the loss of AVA as a tenant is disappointing, the university is very proud of having developed the technology for the research campus, Bohlander said.

“I really think that this could have an impact on the world,” he said.

Senior Reporter Cece Wildeman can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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