SolAero Technologies Receives Funding Award To "Fire and Hire"

The State of New Mexico will reimburse SolAero Technologies about $115,774 for "firing" 16 employees and "hiring" 16 new workers. The State program does not reimbursement the company to train current employees. SolAero Technologies never offered me an option to move laterally. I'm not aware they extended an offer to any of my abandoned coworkers. Thanks, Governor Martinez!

In the December 2016 letter of application for funding assistance, SolAero Technologies (name redacted) wrote, "We would like to request the assistance of the State of New Mexico through the Job Training Incentive Program in the amount of $180,840.00 for funding 25 jobs." And, in February 2017, the New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) awarded SolAero Technologies $182,090 ($180,840 for 25 new hires at an average wage of $19.41, including $1,250 in audit fees) through the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) to support new employee training for their proposed expansion in the Albuquerque area. Factoring in the 25 employees as stated in the application, the training incentive for each new employee averages $7,234 or a total of $115,774 for 16 employees.

State of New Mexico Training Reimbursement Awarded

New Mexico Economic Development Department Board Minutes 2.10.2017

Comparatively, the New Mexico Economic Development Department awarded Safelite Solutions $872,700 ($870,700 for 320 trainees at average wage of $13.55 and $2,000 in audit fees) through the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP) to support new employee training for their proposed expansion in the Rio Rancho area. This comes to about $2,721 per trainee. The award to SolAero Technologies is about three times greater.

State of New Mexico Training Reimbursement Awarded

New Mexico Economic Development Department Board Minutes 2.10.2017

Phyllis Sullivan, VP of Finance at the time, submitted the request. SolAero Technologies fired her in spring 2017. Phyllis is a talented, hard-driving professional. She was in tears when we talked about her dismissal. It made no sense and demonstrates the chaos and confusion within the company. SolAero Technologies parted with General Manager, Jerry Winton, at this time. He left us a great message from a great man!

From: Jerry Winton
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2017 3:59 PM
Subject: Thank you for everything you did....

Team,
As I mentioned to some of you yesterday ... I came to work every morning with 3 simple things in mind: To strive to be a model of Integrity, Work Ethic and Determination.

I won't say goodbye as I'm quite hopeful our paths will cross again. I won't say good luck as you don't need it. You all are a top notch team and you made my job easy.

Thank you all again for your wisdom, inspiration, support, patience, perseverance, and passion. I honestly could not be more proud of you and the results we achieved.

Be proud of yourselves, you deserve it. Support each other, you need it. Challenge each other in a way that fosters creativity and mutual respect, it is important.

Most of all, keep being great! Please stay in touch ...

SolAero Technologies also applied for about $250,000 from the City of Albuquerque. We are investigating this funding request as well. The company claimed they plan to create an additional 100 high-tech manufacturing jobs. Yet around October 19, 2017, SolAero Technologies fired about 16 seasoned employees. Does the NMEDD JTIP encourage businesses to lay off competent workers to receive public funding? The program only rewards companies when they recruit and hire NEW staff. Governor Susana Martinez's program provides no funding for companies who laterally move and train current employees. For SolAero Technologies, the decision is a "no-brainer."

State of New Mexico Training Reimbursement

By laying off 16 current staff, and hiring 25 new employees, the State of New Mexico pays SolAero Technologies $180,840. Governor Susana Martinez incentivizes companies to fire and hire, rather than keep staff and retrain them. Would you pass up FREE money?

My coworker, Frank, had been part of the team for over 18 years. He didn't give up on SolAero Technologies. CEO Brad Clevenger quit on him. Cathy had served the company over 10 years. She didn't let down SolAero Technologies; CEO Brad Clevenger quit on her. Happy Holidays — here's your pink slip. Losing a job ranks No. 8 on the Holmes-Rahe stress inventory — not far behind the death of a spouse or going to jail. CEO Brad Clevenger accepted the public kudos, as well as some $200,000 in public grants, yet cheated hard-working employees.

"This is great news for New Mexico and another example of what's possible when businesses know they're welcome in New Mexico," said Governor Susana Martinez. "New Mexico has become the place to do business because of our bold reforms and business friendly attitude over the last six years, and we have to continue building on that success."

As an incentive, New Mexico Economic Development Department (NMEDD) awarded SolAero with $182,090, through the Job Training Incentive Program (JTIP), to support employee training for the expansion. [source]

CEO Brad Clevenger

Why Did NMEDD Award SolAero Technologies $182,090?
November 27, 2017

Matthew Geisel, Cabinet Secretary
Barbara Brazil, Deputy Cabinet Secretary
Cassandra Baca, Executive Assistant to Deputy Cabinet Secretary
Benjamin Cloutier, Communications Director
David Mathews, General Counsel
Ryan Eustice, Economist
Therese Varela, Director, Economic Development Division
Sara Gutiérrez, Program Manager, Job Training Incentive Program
Tanya Ortiz, Program Administrator, Job Training Incentive Program
Patrick Gannon, Marketing Coordinator, Job Training Incentive Program

Via email:
Matthew.Geisel@state.nm.us
Barbara.Brazil@state.nm.us
CassandraF.Baca@state.nm.us
Benjamin.Cloutier@state.nm.us
David.Mathews@state.nm.us
RyanT.Eustice@state.nm.us
Therese.Varela@state.nm.us
Sara.Gutierrez@state.nm.us
Tanya.Ortiz@state.nm.us
Patrick.Gannon@state.nm.us

Good afternoon NMEDD:
I'm a strong supporter of your program. New Mexico desperately needs improved economic development. SolAero Technologies laid off a total of SIXTEEN qualified and competent employees on about October 19, 2017. More may follow. Happy Holidays to our families!

Your agency awarded the space solar panel manufacturer about $182,090 around February 2017 to "support employee training" for the Building Two OneWeb expansion. I performed "Mission Critical" work and wore many hats. My coworkers did as well. Frank had been with the company for 18 years; Cindy for over 10 years. All of us could have been retrained, if necessary, rather than being kicked into the unemployment line.

Isn't this why OUR tax money went to SolAero Technologies? This seems to be an example of a company complicit in FRAUD and CORRUPTION. What happened to the taxpayer funds?

I have blogged about this unethical behavior at:
http://wattsupsolaerotech.com

Look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks in advance!


November 27, 2017 at 7:06 PM

Dear Sir,
Thank you for your email correspondence. JTIP is a post performance program and one that requires companies that receive job training awards to go through an audit before public funds are expended.

Barbara Brazil
Deputy Cabinet Secretary
State of NM Economic Development Department
1100 South St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505-4147
(505) 476-3747
barbara.brazil@state.nm.us


November 28, 2017 at 9:33 AM

Good morning Ms. Brazil,
Thank you for getting back to me. Clearly, I'm unhappy with the company’s decision to lay me off along with about 15 other competent and talented employees. They offered me $3,500 to shut up and go away quietly. As you can see, I’m not happy with their offer. They made a political enemy of me. My coworkers are amazing! Best, smartest group with whom I have served. I believe SR management is clueless and confused.

I want to dig deeper into the grant that JTIP awarded the company. The City of Albuquerque also appears to have assisted them. I’m looking into this award as well. They may be using taxpayer funds to put families on the street.

What can you share with me? I’m comfortable making an IPRA (Inspection of Public Records) request, if you need this. Look forward to hearing from you.

Many thanks for your time!


November 29, 2017 at 10:22 AM

Good morning Ms. Brazil,
Per our previous conversation, I wanted to follow up today with a formal IPRA request (attached below). As I am uncertain to whom I should make this request, I have included what appears to be the applicable personnel in my communication.

Thank you for your time. Look forward to hearing from you or your team.

PDF ATTACHMENT: November 29, 2017

IPRA Request


Matthew Geisel, Cabinet Secretary
Barbara Brazil, Deputy Cabinet Secretary
Therese Varela, Director
Sara Gutierrez, Job Training Incentive Program
Ben Cloutier, Public Information Officer

New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD)
Joseph M. Montoya Building
1100 S. St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505-4147

Via Email:
Matthew.Geisel@state.nm.us
Barbara.Brazil@state.nm.us
Therese.Varela@state.nm.us
Sara.Gutierrez@state.nm.us
Benjamin.Cloutier@state.nm.us

Dear NMEDD:

Under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, 14-2-1 NMSA 1978 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records that pertain to the New Mexico EDD Job Training Incentive Program (herein JTIP) and reported award to SolAero Technologies, Corp [herein SolAero Technologies], 10420 Research Road SE, Albuquerque, NM 87123, in the approximate amount of $182,090 around February 2017. SolAero Technologies recently laid off a reported 16 employees on about October 19, 2017. Please provide access to the following:

  1. Summary of JTIP
  2. Application procedures for JTIP
  3. Criteria and qualifications to be awarded funding through JTIP
  4. ANY and/or ALL SolAero Technologies application for JTIP
  5. JTIP evaluation score or rating of SolAero Technologies justifying ANY and/or ALL funding awards
  6. History of ANY and/or ALL JTIP funding distributed to SolAero Technologies
  7. JTIP audit process
  8. ANY and/or ALL JTIP audit results for SolAero Technologies
If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform me if the cost will exceed $25. However, I would also like to request a waiver of all fees in that the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding of the Job Training Incentive Program. This information is not being sought for commercial purposes.

The New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act requires a response time of no less than three business days. If access to the records I am requesting will take longer than this amount of time, please contact me with information about when I might expect copies or the ability to inspect the requested records.

If you deny any or all of this request, please cite each specific exemption you feel justifies the refusal to release the information and notify me of the appeal procedures available to me under the law.

Thank you for considering my request.


December 1, 2017 at 8:41 AM

Sir ~
Deputy Secretary Brazil forwarded your IPRA request to me. We will honor your request, but I do not know how many documents are involved. I also do not know if the documents contain any protected information regarding SolAero employees.

David Mathews
General Counsel
New Mexico Economic Development Department
505-827-0241

December 1, 2017 at 9:19 AM

Aloha Friday Mr. Mathews,
Appreciate hearing from you. Thank you for updating me. Look forward to receiving the information we requested.

Greatly appreciated!


December 12, 2017 at 7:32 AM

Good morning Mr. Matthews,
Hope you and Mr. Cloutier are off to a productive week. I wanted to follow up to see if you have an ETA for the information I’ve requested. I would appreciate an update.

Thank you in advance.

On about December 14, 2017, David Mathews, NMEDD General Council, forwarded about 100 pages of documents per our IPRA request.


January 8, 2018 at 1:33 PM

Barbara.Brazil@state.nm.us
David.Mathews@state.nm.us

Dear Ms. Brazil and Mr. Mathews,
I hope you both had a wonderful holiday season and are off to a great 2018. Happy New Year!

Thank you for providing me about 100 pages of documentation related to the JTIP and SolAero Technologies (herein SolAero). In a December 23, 2016 letter to Patrick Gannon, SolAero requested about $181,000 to fund about 25 jobs. [source]

In a Compliance Review, 10.11.2017, JTIP Reviewer Jennifer Myers verified the company properly followed the JTIP steps to receive a reimbursement in the amount of $4080.00. [source] Ms. Myers also confirmed the company posted the job opening on the New Mexico Workforce Connection website — Job Title, "Tech Assistant" was provided as proof of posting. A copy was made for JTIP's records. [source]

I could not find the job posting in your attached documents. Did I miss this? Under Trainee Eligibility, the requirement for the trainee appears to be a new hire to the company. I worked in the IT department. We added a new Tech during this period — but the individual transferred from another department in the company. The individual was not a student intern. Please provide the job post for this position.

Under Qualifications and Requirements for JTIP (JTIP Policy Manual FY2018 [source], p6), Section 2. The company must be creating new jobs, whether due to expansion in New Mexico or relocation to the State of New Mexico. Eligibility as an expanding company is determined by peak employment over two years. As SolAero laid off approximately 16 employee on about October 19, 2017, it remains unclear if the company complied with this requirement. The company has suffered a number of Reductions in Work Force over the past couple years.

I do not see any information about SolAero's "peak employment." The minutes from the JTIP Board Meeting, 2.10.17, show SolAero's request for about $182K to hire and train 25 employees (p2), "quickly and on the immediate need for the 25 posted positions requested." [source] Yet they dismissed about 16 employees 6-8 months later.

In SolAero's JTIP Application [source], Question 49, they state the "total number of local new hires" will be: 52. Question 50, they state they will transfer 25 employees. I see no evidence this occurred. Question 62 says the company will train "on the job." This means WE, current employees, do the training. Management might keep the money! Question 71 lists training plans. Please provide these to me, as this will help determine whether the funding was used appropriately.

In SolAero's JTIP Application (p14-16), there is a list of about 12 positions, including a reimbursement section totalling $180,840.00 (p16). I see no information JTIP reimbursed the company. Did this occur? If so, can I have documentation to support this or information about the status of this process.

I'm a policy writer. I respect the intent of JTIP, but as we know, sometimes there are unintended consequences. It's possible this program incentivizes companies to recruit NEW staff in order to receive public funding, while releasing current employees, as there is no funding to laterally move and train current employees.

Please let me know if you need a formal IPRA for these requests. I believe these would fall under the previous request, but I await your response.

Thank you again for your time!


January 11, 2018 at 1:33 PM

IPRA Request

Matthew Geisel, Cabinet Secretary
Barbara Brazil, Deputy Cabinet Secretary
David Mathews, General Counsel
Therese Varela, Director
Sara Gutierrez, Job Training Incentive Program
Ben Cloutier, Public Information Officer

New Mexico Economic Development Department (EDD)
Joseph M. Montoya Building
1100 S. St. Francis Drive
Santa Fe, NM 87505-4147

Via Email:
Matthew.Geisel@state.nm.us
Barbara.Brazil@state.nm.us
David.Mathews@state.nm.us
Therese.Varela@state.nm.us
Sara.Gutierrez@state.nm.us
Benjamin.Cloutier@state.nm.us

Dear New Mexico EDD,
I am following up my email dated January 8, 2018. As I didn't hear back from you, I've submitted an IPRA request as an attachment to this email. Thank you for your time. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

SUMMARY of IPRA REQUEST
Under the New Mexico Inspection of Public Records Act, 14-2-1 NMSA 1978 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records that pertain to the New Mexico EDD Job Training Incentive Program (herein JTIP) and reported award to SolAero Technologies, Corp [herein SolAero], 10420 Research Road SE, Albuquerque, NM 87123, in the approximate amount of $182,090 around February 2017. SolAero Technologies recently laid off a reported 16 employees on about October 19, 2017. Please provide access to the following:

1. In Compliance Review dated 10.11.2017, JTIP Reviewer Jennifer Myers verified SolAero properly followed JTIP steps to receive reimbursement of $4080.00. Ms. Myers also verified SolAero posted job opening on New Mexico Workforce Connection website — Job Title, "Tech Assistant." Please provide the job posting for this position.

2. Under Qualifications and Requirements for JTIP, 2 (JTIP Policy Manual FY2018, p6), "For first-time applicants, eligibility as an expanding company is determined by peak employment over the two prior years." Please provide SolAero's peak employment over the two prior years.

3. In SolAero's JTIP Application, Question 71 lists training plans. Please provide copies of the plans.

4. You provided a copy of the remittance dated 10/31/2017 in the amount of $4080.00. Please provide ANY and/or ALL JTIP funding authorized for or distributed to SolAero since this time.

Sincerely