$13 million in state aid may be recovered from Evergreen solar


With the Patrick administration facing criticism for heavily subsidizing a company that is bailing on Massachusetts, Greg Bialecki, the state’s economic development secretary, defended public investments in Evergreen Solar Tuesday.

Bialecki said he believed the state could recoup some of its money. “In hindsight I do think it was a good idea,” Bialecki told reporters, reflecting on state assistance to the company that he valued at $31 million.

Once a poster-company for Gov. Deval Patrick’s green-jobs agenda, Evergreen announced plans last week to shut its Devens manufacturing plant and move more than 800 jobs elsewhere, after accepting millions of dollars in state subsidies.

Bialecki said Evergreen had received $21 million in cash grants — $20 million to help build its facility and $1 million for workforce training — $7.5 million in investment tax credits and a long-term lease on state land valued at $2.7 million. Evergreen has received other forms of public aid, but Bialecki said he did not count in his estimate $13 million in state grants used to build road and utilities infrastructure at Devens and some state taxes the company avoided when paying for equipment.

Bialecki estimated the state can recoup $13 million, including the $7.5 million investment tax credit, which he said won’t be claimed, $3 million in state grants that were tied to a job-creation formula, and land costs.

Bialecki did not rule out additional public sector incentives for companies eyeing the facility that Evergreen is abandoning.

“We’re looking very carefully at what happened here and what lessons can be learned,” he said. “This wasn’t so much an investment in Evergreen Solar as it was in the clean energy sector. The purpose wasn’t to benefit a company but to grow an industry, and the investment really put us on the map.”

Gov. Deval Patrick also defended his administration in light of the Evergreen controversy, saying the process of doling out incentives to individual companies or industries “works well.”

“I am disappointed that we are losing these manufacturing jobs to China, but Evergreen produced over 900 jobs for each of the years in question (two or three times what they promised) and that was good for the workers who got those jobs,” the governor argued during an online chat on Boston.com. “Evergreen did not use about half of the benefits that were offered to them, and we have recovered or will recover most of the rest.

“Beyond that, we need to ask ourselves whether we are serious about competing for jobs on the same playing field as other states. Far more often than not, we win in a competition. But we have to compete to win.”