This is the home of Hemlock Semiconductor Corp. It makes a material crucial for constructing photovoltaic panels. And that has turned this snow-covered hamlet into an unlikely hotbed for solar energy.
On Dec. 15, the same week that General Motors Corp. and Chrysler begged $17.4 billion from taxpayers to stave off collapse, Hemlock announced a $3-billion expansion that could create hundreds of jobs. It’s a rare piece of good news for this battered Rust Belt state, whose 9.6% unemployment rate is the nation’s highest.
In contrast to Detroit iron, Hemlock’s quartz-based polycrystalline silicon is in such demand that workers in white smocks and protective gear toil around the clock to get it to customers around the globe.
Hemlock has been deluged with applications from idle factory hands such as former autoworker Don Sloboda. The 50-year-old Saginaw resident has been retraining at a local community college for what he hopes is the region’s new engine of job growth.