Fremont’s Mayor Offers a Fresh Look behind Solyndra’s Demise

Aug 21, 2013

Kelly Kline

Economic Development Director & Chief Innovation Officer

Recently, Fremont’s Mayor Bill Harrison took a look back at the very public demise of solar giant Solyndra, and shared the city’s lessons from that experience. You can view the original article here from PandoDaily, a startup tech website in Silicon Valley.

The Mayor begins by examining how Fremont responded to the Solyndra bankruptcy, while maintaining an unwavering commitment to clean technology. First and foremost, he makes the point that Fremont didn’t back down from its clean tech initiative:

We knew clean tech was a vital sector for future growth with high global impact. Poor Solyndra management and a dip in the solar energy market sank the company, not lack of opportunity ...”

Diversification was key to bouncing back. There was also an emphasis on getting the 1,000 laid off workers into other technology jobs, and proactively marketing the real estate opportunity, which ultimately led to Seagate expanding their Fremont operation into the building.

The Mayor then outlines what other cities can learn from Fremont’s experience:

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. We were all guilty of buying into the hype surrounding the accelerated growth of the solar industry.” He also advises to make the best out of the worst. “While it may not be true that ‘any publicity is good publicity’, many industry thought leaders have discovered that Fremont’s clean tech portfolio extends beyond this one black sheep.”

In the future, Fremont will be using a “VC lens” to evaluate startups looking to call Fremont its home:

Examine the market opportunity with a healthy dose of skepticism. Question whether this specific startup has a unique advantage to withstand competition.”

Finally, the Mayor makes suggestions for clean tech companies to consider in evaluating real estate decisions, using the following checklist of questions:

  • Is there an established industry cluster?
  • Does the city offer any benefits, incentives or tax breaks?
  • Is there a workforce pipeline?
  • Is the city a cheerleader for innovation and growth?

In conclusion, the Mayor observes that:

“Fremont’s position as a startup haven and an innovation hub makes it almost inevitable that Solyndra won’t be the last company in our midst to go belly-up.”

However, continued cluster building will support the next generation of clean tech companies, including Tesla, Soraa, Redwood Systems and Deeya Energy. The Mayor notes that these companies “will be the names and success stories for which Fremont is remembered.”

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