Economic Development

Toray wins $1M grant for solar array; noncommittal on expansion plans

TORAY (Plastics) America Inc. received a $1 million grant from the state Monday to help it pay for a $2 million solar farm at its North Kingstown plant.
Posted 8/23/11

PROVIDENCE – A $1 million state grant to construct a solar array may not be enough to persuade Toray Plastics (America) Inc. to make a $200 million investment at its North Kingstown plant.

On Monday, the R.I. Economic Development Corporation’s board approved the grant to Toray in hopes of nudging the company to expand here rather than in Virginia, where it operates another plant and electric costs are lower. Toray says the expansion would create up to 200 jobs.

During the board meeting, Toray President and CEO Richard Schloesser told board members that the grant “shows support for our company and we’re anxious to remain here.”

But after the board’s approval, Schloesser was noncommittal in remarks to reporters. He called the grant “a good first step” to encouraging the plastics maker to grow in Rhode Island. He refused to say what other steps, if any, are necessary ensure that the expansion occurs in the Ocean State.

He also declined to say when the company, which is a division of the Japan-based Toray Industries Inc., would announce its growth plans, other than to say expansion would occur in stages and that more information may be available Tuesday.

If Toray is looking for more incentives from the state, the company may not get them. In an interview with reporters, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee said he was not prepared “at this time” to offer Toray additional enticements beyond the grant approved Monday.

But he and EDC Executive Director Keith W. Stokes both described themselves as “confident” that Toray would pick Rhode Island over Virginia. (This weekend Chafee toured a Canadian hydropower plant with a Toray executive in hopes that electricity from a planned expansion could flow to Toray and lower the company's electric bills.)

To pay for the grant the state will withdraw $750,000 from the Renewable Energy Fund, which is funded by a surcharge on electric bills. The remaining $250,000 comes from federal stimulus money received by the state.

Separately, Toray earlier received a $490,000 state grant paid for with stimulus funds and the project qualifies for a $454,482 federal tax credit.

NuLabel receives $1.5M loan guarantee

In other business, the EDC board approved a $1.5 million, state-guaranteed loan for NuLabel Technologies. The backing comes under the EDC’s Job Creation Guaranty Program, the same program that backed a $75 million loan to Curt Schilling’s gaming company 38 Studios.

Providence-based NuLabel said it would use the money to create 39 additional jobs by 2016 with an average salary of $74,250.

The startup is developing a “backless label” – a label where the liner that protects the adhesive is unnecessary. Instead, a machine applies a substance to the back of the label when it is printed. The substance creates a chemical reaction that makes the label sticky.

The company, founded by three Brown University graduates, says removing the liner can save companies such as FedEx and Wal-Mart millions of dollars a year.

The company has already attracted $1.2 million from private investors and is preparing to open another round of financing, hoping to garner $2.5 million in addition to the loan.

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