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NJ Solar Switch Maker Wins $1.1 Million Award

Family-Run Olson Motor & Control Gets Big Boost from New Jersey Clean Energy Manufacturing Fund.

It is not often that a small, family-run manufacturing business finds a way to grow in New Jersey, yet that is precisely what is occurring with Olson Motor & Control, Inc.

The Mansville switch manufacturer was celebrating yesterday after winning a $1.1 million award from the New Jersey Clean Energy Manufacturing Fund, which will allow the quarter-century-old company to greatly expand its business.

The fund, administered jointly by the state Board of Utilities (BPU) and the Economic Development Authority (EDA), awarded a $1 million loan and a $100,000 grant to help facilitate the expansion of the firm’s fast-growing business in the renewable energy field.

"It’s very exciting to help a true manufacturing company to grow and be successful," said Ann Olson, the firm's business manager. Her husband, Bill, is president and chief executive officer of the company, which began building custom control panels and switches for a variety of manufacturing processes.

Word of Mouth

Even though the company has never employed a sales or marketing force, its business has prospered through the years thanks to repeat customers and word-of-mouth recommendations.

In the past four years, the firm, which now has nine employees, began getting involved with solar companies, making switches to help their systems perform more efficiently. Its business grew rapidly with First Solar, a big solar firm that builds a lot of utility-scale solar projects, Ann Olson said.

Olson read about the grant/loan program while researching what New Jersey offers businesses that are seeking to expand their operations. She put together the application and learned yesterday the board had unanimously approved the award.

"This is a fantastic project that will expand manufacturing jobs in the renewable energy field," said Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso after the vote. The state has been very successful in attracting solar firms to New Jersey, he said, but less so in luring manufacturing plants in the renewable energy field.

With the grant and loan, Olson plans to quadruple its annual production of combiner switches, according to Michael Winka, director of the New Jersey Office of Clean Energy. "It’s basically a manifold for a solar system," he said, describing the switch.

In 2010, Olson manufactured 2,000 switches; by 2014, it hopes to produce 9,500. At a minimum, the company expects to add at least 20 new employees and move into a bigger manufacturing plant in nearby Hillsborough.

"It’s very interesting to be in a business sector where things are moving so rapidly," Olson said. "We’re thrilled to be on track to work and get some money to help us grow."

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