State plans to ask Evergreen to return $3m in aid
Massachusetts acknowledged today it will likely only be able to recoup a fraction of the tens of millions of dollars it spent to help Evergreen Solar Inc. build a massive solar panel manufacturing plant in Devens.The state originally said it hoped to take back a significant portion of the aid after the Marlborough company announced plans a week ago to shutter the plant by the end of March and eliminate 800 jobs in Devens. The state originally awarded Evergreen more than $58 million in grants, tax incentives, land and upgrades to Devens -- of which roughly $38 million has been spent so far.
But Gregory Bialecki, the state's secretary of economic development and housing, said at a press conference today that the state believes it can only force Evergreen to pay $3 million in direct grants given to the company.
That's consistent with Evergreen's estimate that it only owes the state $3 million to $4 million. But last week, Bialecki said he thought Evergreen's estimate was "low" and thought it could recoup more.
In addition, the state is also working to force Evergreen to forfeit an additional $20 million to $21 million in aid that Evergreen has yet to receive. That leaves roughly $35 million in aid that the state will not be able to recapture.
The original $58 million package included $21 million in direct grants, $13 million spent on roads and other infrastructure in Devens, $7.5 million in tax credits, $15 million in property tax breaks, and a $1 per year subsidized lease for land worth as much as $2.3 million. The state also offered Evergreen an additional $17.5 million in loans -- which would have brought the total package up to $76 million -- but Evergreen wound up turning down those loans.
Still, the state pointed out that not all of that money has actually been spent or lost.
The state said Evergreen hasn't been able to use any of the $7.5 million in tax credits and will likely have to forfeit them because of its plans to shut down the grants.
And Evergreen has saved only $3.8 million of the $15 million in property taxes so far, because the property tax break was spread out over a number of years. The state plans to end the tax break early, which would force Evergreen to pay the full amount if it hangs on to the building.
The state also plans to force Evergreen to buy the land or terminate the subsidized lease early. Evergreen has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in lease payments so far, but the state didn't immediately have a precise estimate.
And Bialecki said he wouldn't count the $13 million in upgrades to Devens, because it could benefit other companies.
A spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, which administers Devens, said most of the improvements would eventually have been needed anyway. But she said they accelerated and modified the list to accommodate Evergreen's needs.
To read a recent Globe story about Evergreen and its Devens plant, please click here.