SM: I am assuming that you are doing your manufacturing in Toledo because of your ties with the university?
XD: It is where our company has grown up. We have had the governor and lieutenant governor over at our facilities. We have also had our senators and congresswoman come visit. There is a lot of excitement over a home-grown technology company. It is a university spinoff success story.
SM: That is wonderful. Have you done your research on how to access some of the stimulus money President Obama is assigning to renewable energy projects?
XD: Yes. We have applied for a loan guarantee program, which we would like to use to build more production lines. The first large-scale production line is almost done. We are going to finish that line in about a month. It will then go through a three-month optimization process, after which we can start to produce product.
SM: You said you have $800 million in letters of intent. What do you think that will translate into over the next two to five years?
XD: Basically, for every 100 megawatts we can create over 1,000 jobs. We would like to grow to around 500 megawatts. That would allow us to create about 5,000 jobs. Direct jobs in our plant may be fewer in number, but there will be a lot of new jobs with vendors. We also plan to hire a lot of contractors to help build the line because there are certain jobs that only need to be done one time. My estimate of 5,000 jobs includes the entire supply chain. In our plant we would probably have 750 jobs.
Ohio is a state that is really looking for good news stories right now, and I think we have the ability to become one of those. It certainly has been a good environment for us to get our start, and it is a good example of how the University of Toledo can help get highly innovative technologies transferred to the commercial world.
SM: It is very refreshing to hear a story of innovation out of Ohio versus the hot spots of Stanford and MIT.
XD: I think it is a greater challenge. We go through a lot more than most people realize. When you are starting some technology initiative around a place like Stanford, I think there are a lot of things people have access to that they do not really appreciate.
SM: I also really like the approach you took to get the business started. You seem to have a real flair for writing these grants and winning them. Funding is typically the bottleneck for highly innovative R&D companies like the one you have started. I think you have maneuvered very well on the funding front.
XD: Right now we have $20 million from government projects as grants or loans, and $40 million which has been raised from four different venture capital firms. That gives us a total of $60 million. I think that is a number that is good enough to let us take off.
SM: Wonderful, and congratulations. Please keep me posted on how you are progressing.