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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Vice President Joe Biden to stop at Perrysburg solar-panel firm next week

Vice President Joe Biden Vice President Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to be in metro Toledo next week in the highest level visit to the area by an administration official since President Barak Obama took office five months ago.

A White House spokesman would not confirm the trip yesterday, but an aide to U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) said the congressman has been advised that on Tuesday Mr. Biden will visit the headquarters of upstart solar panel producer Willard & Kelsey Solar Group LLC in Perrysburg.

The vice president plans to hold a meeting of the administration s Middle Class Task Force, which was set up to promote the interests of working families. Mr. Biden chairs the task force.

The event will focus on emerging manufacturing opportunities for the middle class, Mr. Latta was told.

Preliminary plans are for a quick meeting lasting less than an hour after which Mr. Biden will leave the area, said Steve Fought, press secretary to Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo). The appearance is tentatively to start at 10 a.m., Mr. Fought said.

The visit will be the first to metro Toledo by the president or vice president since the new administration was inaugurated, Mr. Fought said.

The visit appears linked to metro Toledo s emergence as a center of low-cost solar panel production and research.

Willard & Kelsey, which was started by local people with links to Toledo s glass and solar-panel industries, has said it will begin large-scale production this year of so-called thin-film solar panels at the Perrysburg facility.

Last week, Ohio officials said the operation will get a $10 million loan in one of the first awards under a $150 million state program set up to promote job opportunities in advanced energy fields.

Governor Ted Strickland toured the Willard & Kelsey operation in March. Officials in Orlando, Fla., later revealed that they are attempting to convince the firm to move its headquarters and open a second plant there.

Besides Willard & Kelsey, industry giant First Solar Inc., which is based on technology pioneered in Toledo, operates its lone U.S. plant in Perrysburg Township.

And Xunlight Corp. is in the early production stages of solar panel making at a Toledo facility. The area also has several other solar-energy businesses.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.

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