BUFFALO, N.Y. - SolarCity remains adamant it will create 1,460 jobs for the Western New York region through its landmark Riverbend project in South Buffalo, even as 2 On Your Side's partners at Investigative Post revealed this month that only 500 of those jobs will involve manufacturing.
On Thursday evening, company representatives visited Buffalo for a job fair at the offices of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, where they explained their hiring process and timetable for the project. The SolarCity project is critical for the region, as the facility will occupy nearly 90 acres of land in South Buffalo at the former Republic Steel site. SolarCity has touted the facility as the largest solar panel manufacturing plant in the Western Hemisphere.
Joe Mendelson, the director of Policy and Electricity Markets at SolarCity, said the overall job commitment for the Buffalo area has not changed during the course of construction-- even after the revelation that only a portion of the people employed will work at the plant in manufacturing.
"It's important to remember-- 1,460 jobs, still in Buffalo, always have been in Buffalo," Mendelson said. "And the [other] jobs we're creating, they're not better or worse than manufacturing jobs. They're going to have jobs across the company, and they'll help serve the community as a whole."
Mendelson said the non-manufacturing jobs could include customer service or other operations outside the plant.
Mendelson also still expects production at the facility to begin in 2017, downplaying the impact of the federal investigation into Buffalo Billion bids and contracts. With $750 million of state investment into the construction of the plant, SolarCity is a central piece of the Buffalo Billion.
The company has been subpoenaed by prosecutors as a part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara's investigation, but it is not a target of the probe.
"We are not involved in that process, other than helping out and providing information that's requested of us," Mendelson said. "We don't expect that to interfere in any way with our process going forward here in Buffalo."
The company expects to finish construction on the plant later this year. When production ramps up in 2017, the company will first focus on hiring the minimum of 500 people for manufacturing jobs. Then, the company will begin addressing the other 960 or so jobs remaining outside of the manufacturing sector.
"They'll be a diverse array of jobs," Mendelson said, "with a lot of opportunity across the board for the comunity."
Job salaries are unclear at this point. Mendelson said that's still under discussion.
SolarCity has pledged to create up to 5,000 total jobs across the state of New York.