Taking a Chance with Solar Energy

In the winter of 2007, Ella Jenness was like many Americans. She was looking for a job.

After four months of unemployment, she joined a company with just six workers in a field almost entirely new to her. Most of her experience was in real estate, and this was a solar energy production firm. It was “a new challenge,” Jenness said.

Today, that small company, Martifer Solar USA, has grown. The California-based business now has offices in Colorado and Connecticut. Martifer Solar will sub-contract out about 15,000 man-hours of labor. And the number of employees has jumped rather markedly – 983 percent, or 53 others to be precise.

Martifer Solar USA – which transforms solar radiation into electricity, offering clients services including engineering, installation and financial analysis – stands today on the cutting-edge with state-of-the-art technology, internationalization and financial backing that will keep the firm stable for many years.

The company’s success has come from smart decisions along the way – utilizing local talent in hiring decisions has worked wonders, Jenness said – but Martifer Solar USA has also taken advantage of opportunities presented by the federal government. The firm’s clients made use of the 1603 cash grant program that is offered in lieu of tax credits for solar projects, and also benefitted from funds in the Recovery Act. Martifer Solar also took advantage of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, or TIGER discretionary grant program.

All in all, Jenness’ and Martifer Solar USA’s “challenge” has been met with great success.

“The Solar industry,” Jenness notes, “offers economic benefits along with environmental and social responsibility.”

Ari Matusiak is Executive Director of the White House Business Council

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