Welcome the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturing company to Sumter County!

Published 9:59 am Thursday, October 7, 2021

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The Sumter County Payroll Development Authority (PDA) gave our community some great news worthy of our excitement. Their announcement brings with it the  potential to change the entire landscape of Sumter County for the better.  NanoPV will be setting up the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturer in Sumter County. Rusty Warner, Executive Director of the Sumter County PDA, reports along with the national distinction will come 500 jobs this year and a promise to grow to 2000 jobs within the next five years. The jobs are well paying and offer manufacturing level pay grades. “These are good paying jobs,” states Rusty.  Average entry level pay is $18-20 per hour. Paul V. Hall, the Chairman of the PDA, adds, “This is a high-tech business, so they will pay high-tech wages to get the people to perform the tasks they will be doing.”

Relationship is the common thread of success in this story. South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) offers a “Quick Start” program. Quick Start will bring in the NanoPV employees and very specifically train them on skills and parts indigenous to the company. “That way they (NanoPV) will have a work-ready workforce.” Rusty also credits the President of SGTC, John Watford as being “ready, willing and able. He would do anything in his power to help to train the workforce and the help businesses in the community.”   There are all types of positions opening which require high school to master’s level graduation. There will be many jobs within the engineering sector. Another relationship which is highlighted in this opening is the need for supportive partnership with Sumter County Board of Education. Rusty reports, “They (NanoPV) are going to be heavy users in our Great Promise Partnership Program.” Great Promise is for students who are at risk in the education system but are placed onsite in a work environment to help the student overcome. Even these students have the potential to not only earn a wage as they work prior to graduation, but to “go right into” continued permanent work when they own a high school diploma. Rusty reports there are nearly 500 unemployed people in Sumter County. “When this company takes off, that number should get leaner.” Rusty reports one company has recently told him they are finally 100% filled. However, there remain many industries who are in need of workers. Sumter County is seeing significant interest in our home as this is but one of several announcements of new industry just within 2021. Americus Fresh and B & D Foods have yet to open and will be employing hundreds more. A new call center has already and will continue to bring 1000 jobs.

Being able to fill this need is a priority in continued growth. Our workforce must be ready, but they also must be willing and able to perform towards achievement. Our economy, which includes every resident’s pocketbook, and homeowner’s property values, depends upon the Sumter County worker. Rusty feels these type jobs will help not only the unemployed, but the “underemployed.” Rusty compared NanoPV to other manufacturers. He believes, “this is going to be the place people are going to want to work.” Economic development is vital to the growth and health of a community. For cities to run, there must be a strong tax base. Property values must be worthy. Infrastructure must be solid. The school system must produce good, quality, career ready students. Economic development also directly affects other quality of life factors such as health, local activities, further shopping and eating opportunities and crime rates. It is imperative we as a community understand our part in the relationship which develops our economy. In addition to other ways, one way in which you can partner in bringing economic growth to the area is by choosing your elected officials carefully. Elected officials choose who sits on the PDA board. Being able to make wise decisions on leadership is imperative. Additionally, when you see citizens who are dedicated to the growth of our home, express your gratitude, these positions require a generous personality with a pure passion for the community as there is no financial incentive except what will be given all of us who call Sumter County our home. Lastly, please acknowledge those who play such a vital role by investing in our workforce. Industry cannot be successful without those who support the worker. These partners help potential workers see the dignity in their work and they work tirelessly to ensure workers have the skills necessary to be successful. In this particular case, representatives from the city, county, SGTC officials and PDA representatives held an event to meet the owners and representatives of the industry for one final push on behalf of our home. In this meeting was Mayor Barry Blount, Councilman Charles Christmas, Chairman Mark Waddell, Commissioner Jessie Smith, SGTC representatives, John Watford and Paul Farr and PDA representatives, Paul V. Hall and John Shealy. It was at this dinner, Dr. Anna John, the inventor and scientist of NanoPV announced he was “very comfortable bringing his company to Sumter County” and reported to Rusty that Paul Hall’s words on relationships were especially significant to him.

Randford Herman of NanoPV reemphasized the importance of relationship. When asked what he would like our readers to know, he said, “It is a great relationship with Rusty and his department. That is one of the things emphasized here—the importance of having the relationship is highly critical. As a company we look at the long-term relationship, not just the short-term.” Ranford continued, “choosing Sumter County was only done after procuring relationships, seeing how well we (the Sumter County community) work together and knowing our (Sumter County) people have solid knowledge of what it takes to expand a company.” Another concern he tested our county on—the way we govern. He wanted assurance his growth would not be slowed by our government, as the company did not want to be “caught in red tape that would hinder that (growth) in any way.” He wants to make sure there is “continuity in the support as we grow as a company. That is very important. Having relationship is very vital.”

Good relationships take time. Rusty has been working with NanoPV for about six years, the entire PDA board has been welcoming them for years. There is a definite place saved for NanoPV at Sumter County’s table and the PDA is grateful for them choosing us. In addition to providing green energy, they also produce little waste, as Rusty reports “99-98% (of the product made) is recyclable. It’s just glass and sand.” NanoPV will be moving the nation’s largest solar panel manufacturing plant onto Sumter County’s Ted Baldwin Industrial Park. They will also be building additional facilities as they progress, further adding to our infrastructure.

Members of your PDA include Chairman Paul V. Hall who represents the manufacturing sector. Serving as Vice Chairman, Mike Donnelly is talented in human resource procurement. Teresa O’Bryant is the PDA’s Secretary and is a beautiful resource for educating the workforce. Offering the services of a treasurer, Bill Harris, Sr. brings knowledge of both the banking industry and community activity. John Shealy brings vitality and comes with expertise in financial sector as he serves as the assistant treasurer.

PDA Executive Director, Rusty Warner and PDA Chairman, Paul V. Hall