CEO: New Clark County solar parts facility wouldn’t have been possible without Biden legislation

CEO: New Clark County solar parts facility wouldn’t have been possible without Biden legislation

State, federal and private sector stakeholders celebrate the opening of a Unimacts steel production facility in Sloan, NV, on June 18, 2024. Massachusetts-based Unimacts Global has partnered with solar producer NEXTracker, Inc., to create motorized steel tracks at the Sloan factory that will allow solar panels to change position depending on the time of day.

By Casey Harrison

June 18, 2024

The opening of Unimacts’ 160,000-square-foot factory in Sloan will help expand Nevada’s presence in the clean energy sector and was only made possible because of the Inflation Reduction Act, CEO Alan Hays said. 

For decades, Alan Hays made a living advising manufacturing companies to cut costs by shipping jobs from one country to another, where the price of labor was generally much cheaper. 

As a business operations manager working in industry, sometimes that meant sending Italian jobs to Germany, or German jobs to the UK. Other times it meant shifting business operations from a facility in the US to another in Mexico. Where those jobs went all depended on how much it could save the company, according to Hays. 

“In retrospect it was a terrible thing to do — but that was the way the industry was operating,” said Hays, now the chief executive of Massachusetts-based Unimacts Global, a manufacturing parts servicer that provides industrial equipment to vendors worldwide. “We chased the price.” 

But thanks to investments and incentives signed into law under the Biden administration, Hays said thousands of manufacturing jobs are coming back to the US. 

“This was the first time we’ve ever put jobs in the country that I lived in,” Hays said. “That’s why I’m passionate about it.” 

On Tuesday, Hays led a keynote as Unimacts officially opened a brand new, 160,000-square-foot steel factory south of Las Vegas in Sloan that he and others contend will bolster Nevada’s growing green energy sector. 

The plant will be run in partnership with Fremont, California-based NEXTracker Inc., a solar company that seeks to build projects at utility scale, while the facility itself will produce motorized steel tracks that house solar panels and position them into direct sunlight, no matter the time of day. Once fully operational, the facility will be able to support 125 full-time employees.

“It’s been fantastic to see the growth of jobs that are resulting from policy,” said Dan Shugar, NEXTracker’s founder and CEO. “And that’s not only lowering the cost for consumers in their homes and businesses, but it’s also furthering energy security and energy independence. And it’s all while we’re enabling cleaner air quality.” 

Hays said once President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), he and his team immediately sought ways to take advantage of the tax credits made available through the legislation. Biden signed the IRA in August 2022, and in the weeks that followed, Hays and others at Unimacts decided to shift and bring operations back to the US. 

“By September [2022], we were already stripping machines out of Mexico,” Hays said. “By November, those machines were on the backs of trucks coming back across the border.”

Tuesday’s event was celebrated by state officials who touted Nevada’s growing presence in the renewable energy industry. Dwayne McClinton, director of the Nevada Governor’s Office of Energy, presented Shugar with a certificate on behalf of Gov. Joe Lombardo to recognize Tuesday’s grand opening, and said the joint venture will only fortify Nevada as the “epicenter of solar activity and innovation.” 

“We are not just shaping the future of energy, but also making a positive impact on the world around us,” McClinton said.  

Whitney Muse, a senior policy advisor for the White House office of Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, called Tuesday’s event a “microcosm” of what officials had envisioned the IRA could be, and added the long-term success of the law will depend on the private sector taking full advantage of the investment opportunities it offers. 

“It’s an exciting moment in the clean energy economy,” Muse said. “We’re seeing projects like these sprout up in all 50 states, taking advantage of the tax credits, the grants, the rebates, the loans and all of the incentives the Biden-Harris administration is bringing forth to drive all of this investment. … but it’s ultimately private-sector led.” 

The plant opened Tuesday by Unimacts isn’t the company’s first foray into Nevada, either. The company opened a separate facility in Las Vegas in early 2023, to make so-called torque tubes — used to help solar panels rotate. That facility allows the company to produce enough torque tubes in a year to support about two gigawatts of solar generation, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which also noted the company has manufacturing plants in Mexico as well as Spain. 

Experts largely say it could take years before finding out for sure whether the IRA will be successful in bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US for a prolonged period. But it’s at least a starting point, Shugar said, adding that Nevada is uniquely positioned to benefit as the demand for renewable energy grows. 

“With the great [amount of] sun, demand growth, favorable policy regulation, and availability of labor, Nevada is one of the most exciting solar markets in the United States,” Shugar said.

  • Casey Harrison

    Casey Harrison is political correspondent for The Nevadan. Previously, he covered politics and the Oakland Athletics' relocation to Southern Nevada for the Las Vegas Sun, and before that, was a digital producer at The Detroit News. Casey graduated from Michigan State University in 2019.

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