Brighter days ahead for Hoku

Idaho State Journal Editorial

Hoku Materials’ road to starting operations at its Pocatello plant has been long with many twists, turns and perhaps a few roadblocks.
But it’s clear that Hoku is for real and questions regarding its polysilicon production facility here are now revolving around “when” not “if.”
The company is going to be sending 10 of the 60-plus employees at its unfinished Pocatello plant to China, where they’ll get additional training at the polysilicon plant owned by Tianwei New Energy Holdings Co., Hoku’s majority shareholder.
Hoku also got a good dose of positive national exposure this week when President and Chief Executive Officer Scott Paul appeared on CNBC.
Paul was interviewed Tuesday at Solar Power International 2010, a massive solar energy trade show in Los Angeles.
It was the same day that Hoku’s stock jumped nearly 16 percent after the company secured a $13 million loan from China Merchants Bank.
Paul said CNBC’s interest in Hoku is due to the company’s comeback from an economic downturn that seemed to raise many doubts, especially in regard to the Pocatello plant ever being completed.
Hoku was not unlike pretty much every company in the U.S. in that cutbacks and stock declines became a norm as the recession worsened. But now it’s clear that brighter days are ahead—at least for Hoku.
“For polysilicon, the market is strong,” Paul said. “The price has gone back up again. We’re seeing an increased demand for products compared with a year ago.”
Paul’s still keeping the startup date for the Pocatello plant a secret, but has promised to provide more details next month.
It’s clear that the company won’t be able to get to the next level until the plant here begins production and there’s no doubt that Hoku is as anxious as the rest of us for that to happen.
The plant will eventually employ more than 200 people and Paul points out that most of them will come from the Pocatello area.
Paul said the national media’s paying attention to Hoku because it’s clear the company’s “on the other side of (its) financial challenges from last year and (is) now in a position to focus on the future, completing the plant and growing a healthy business.”
Hoku has a team of about a half-dozen people who are trying to make sales, and let’s hope they land some contracts soon.
Some business would surely speed up the timeline for the plant to begin producing polysilicon.
But like we said earlier—it’s not if, but when.