QUAPAW - While hundreds of area residents face layoffs as companies make cutbacks in an unstable economy, one company is bringing hope to Ottawa County.

Umicore, a Belgium-based materials technology company, broke ground in Quapaw Tuesday.

“This is very positive for Quapaw,” said Neal Watson, Qupaw's Mayor. “Anytime you can bring new jobs and new families, it helps.”

The first phase of the project, according to Peter Dobbelaere, manager of the Umicore plant, should be completed by the spring of 2010.

“This is a $35 million expansion that will bring about 50 jobs to Quapaw,” said Dobbelaere. “Eventually, we expect a total investment of $51 million that will create 165 jobs by 2013.”

According to Dobbelaere, the Quapaw factory produces germanium substrates for high-efficiency solar cells, including those used on satellites and on the Phoenix Mars Lander.

Currently, the factory employs 70 people. The plant manufactures night-vision components for car headlights.

“We looked at three different locations for possible expasions,” said Dobbelaere.

Construction costs, operational costs, area cost of living, availability of employees in different skill categories, availability of suppliers and unemployment rates were considerations.

“Another consideration was how frequently workers move in and out of the area,” Dobbelaere said. “The one thing Quapaw had it its favor was that the company was already operating in this location.”

Incentives offered to Umicore included a sales-tax exemption on equipment and training offered at no cost at a vocational school. A Native American Employee Tax Credit allows companies to receive a $4,000 federal tax credit for every employee who is an American Indian or the spouse of an American Indian.

According to Judy Snodderly, executive director for the Miami Area Economic Development Service and the person responsible for writing Quapaw's proposal, there also is a five-year property-tax forgiveness for the company. An accelerated depreciation program allows the company to rapidly depreciate equipment, to reduce the company's tax liability.

One of the biggest incentives was through the state's Quality Jobs Act. That allows qualifying companies to receive quarterly cash rebates of up to 5 percent of taxable wages for up to 10 years.

“This expansion will produce a lot of high-tech jobs here,” Dobbelaere said. “The facility is using quite a bit of high-tech equipment.”