- The number of construction workers employed at the $900-million SolarCity factory project in Buffalo, NY, will triple in the coming months to between 1,200 and 1,500 — almost equal to the number of people expected to be working in the factory once it opens in 2017.
- SolarCity is the largest residential installer of solar energy in the U.S., and its factory, part of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative, is expected to produce 10,000 solar panels per day, enough to generate one gigawatt of electricity annually.
- SolarCity is just one of a number of large projects underway in the Buffalo Niagara region of New York, an area that has seen construction jobs top 26,000 — the highest number in 25 years.
The SolarCity project, as well as all the other Buffalo Billion-funded construction projects, include project labor agreements that mandate the use of union labor. However, unlike the skilled worker shortages in some parts of the U.S., the construction boom in Western New York has not caused any organized labor shortages, according to Paul Brown, president of the Buffalo Building Trades Council.
"We’ve never had a shortage of workers ever," Brown said. "We should have no problem at all meeting the demand."
However, Brown does see the potential for a shortage of skilled labor down the road because of the low number of apprentice applications.
"That is one of the toughest things, getting people interested in the trades," Brown said. "We still have this, 'I have to go to college mentality.' It’s tough to change."