NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY)– First Solar, the largest solar module manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere, held a groundbreaking ceremony for its new facility in New Iberia.

The factory is expected to create more than 700 direct jobs. Supporters say the facility will be a game changer for those in and around Iberia Parish.

Mike Tarantino, CEO of the Iberia Development Foundation, said Iberia Parish is the perfect place for First Solar to have the manufacturing facility.

“Iberia Parish has got a wonderful workforce,” Tarantino said. “We’ve got great sights here around Acadiana Regional Airport. We’re located right here around Highway 90 where it’s easy to bring goods in and out, and we get to tap into the wonderful Acadiana workforce. All of the skills they bring to the table, it’s the right recipe for First Solar, and it’s wonderful for Acadiana.”

Ramesh Kolluru, vice president of research at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said the research they have done on the facility paid off and will create lots of jobs in the area.

“The opportunity truly is not only to take the research that we talked about now and transfer that into economic development opportunities for our region, but it also is an opportunity for us to produce the workforce, working with First Solar to make sure on day one when the company is ready to do their ribbon cutting and open its doors, we have the workers that are needed, that are trained, that are able to hit the road running on day one,” Kolluru said.

George Antoun, chief commercial officer for First Solar, said the company is looking forward to having a long-standing relationship with Acadiana.

“They’ve been fantastic,” Antoun said. “They’ve been open. They’ve been committed to making this happen. This is exactly what we were looking for and hopefully this will translate to a great partnership between the Acadiana and First Solar.”

The facility is expected to be completed by 2026.