Abound Solar Under Criminal Investigation by Colorado DA: Possible political agenda in this investigation? November 4, 2012Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, US Department of Energy, Weld County DA Ken Buck
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Although an official press release issued by the office of Weld County DA Ken Buck indicated that “no one has been charged with a crime at this early point in the investigation,” the Investigations Unit of the district attorney’s office is probing allegations of securities fraud based on claims that Abound Solar knowingly misled investors about products the company knew were defective.
The second of three allegations claims that Abound Solar misled lenders when applying for a bridge loan that served to keep the company in operation until DOE loans had been received. The third alleges that Abound Solar may have perpetrated consumer fraud if officials within the company were aware their products were defective when they were sold to consumers.
In March, it was reported that Abound Solar had halted production of its first generation thin-film solar modules and would be “temporarily” laying off 180 workers from its Loveland, Colorado-based facility. In June, it was reported that the company would be closing down operations permanently and filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, just two years after receiving a $400 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy — $70 million of which had already been drawn. The company’s final closure resulted in the loss of an additional 125 jobs.
With the Presidential election now only days away, it remains to be seen how these latest developments will impact the public perception of President Obama’s efforts to fund green energy initiatives with taxpayer dollars. In a televised interview with KUSA’s Kyle Clark, Obama said, “These loans that are given out by the Department of Energy for clean energy have created jobs all across the country. Some of them have failed, but the vast majority of them are pushing us forward into a clean energy direction.”
Obama added, “These are decisions, by the way, that are made by the Department of Energy. They have nothing to do with politics.” Since this statement, emails have surfaced on the website of CompleteColorado.com that point to a possible greater involvement by White House officials to ensure approval of DOE loans to Abound Solar.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has also begun its own probe of the issue. Initially, Abound Solar cited “aggressive pricing actions from Chinese solar panel companies” as the primary reason for its inability to gain a foothold in the market — however a letter of inquiry sent to Energy Secretary Steven Chu by three Republican congressmen pointed to recently published reports and public domain documents that may indicate “persistent technological problems” as the principal cause of the company’s downfall.
The Department of Energy has said that of the $70 million stimulus funds used by Abound Solar, approximately $40 million to $60 million will be picked up by taxpayers. Abound Solar also received an estimated $300 million in private investment funding.
Abound Solar to Suspend Operations, Will Seek Bankruptcy; Abound Solar Follows Bankruptcy of Uni-Solar June 28, 2012Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, Energy Conversion Devices (ECD), thin-film solar panels using cadmium telluride, Tipton Indiana, Uni-Solar, United Solar Ovonic LLC (USO)
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The auction sale process has been designed to facilitate the sale of assets in various bulk and piecemeal configurations, and to maximize the opportunity to sell the integrated assets in bulk to permit future manufacturing of USO’s proprietary Uni-Solar© brand thin-film solar laminates.
The live webcast auction sale will commence on Tuesday June 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM ET at USO’s Greenville, Michigan facility.
ECD and USO voluntarily filed a petition for relief under Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on February 14, 2012. Additional information regarding the bankruptcy proceedings is available at www.energyconversiondevices.com/restructuring.php.
Abound Solar Inc., a U.S. solar manufacturer that was awarded a $400 million U.S. loan guarantee, will suspend operations and file for bankruptcy because its panels were too expensive to compete.
Abound borrowed about $70 million against the guarantee, the Loveland, Colorado-based company said today in a statement. It plans to file for bankruptcy protection in Wilmington, Delaware, next week.
The failure will follow that of Solyndra LLC, which shut down in August after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the same U.S. Energy Department program. Abound stopped production in February to focus on reducing costs after a global oversupply and increasing competition from China drove down the price of solar panels by half last year.
“Aggressive pricing actions from Chinese solar-panel companies have made it very difficult for an early stage startup company like Abound to scale in current market conditions,” the company said in the statement.
U.S. taxpayers may lose $40 million to $60 million on the loan after Abound’s assets are sold and the bankruptcy proceeding closes, Damien LaVera, an Energy Department spokesman, said in a statement today.
“When the floor fell out on the price of solar panels, Abound’s product was no longer cost competitive,” LaVera said.
Cliff Stearns, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s oversight panel that has held several hearings and collected thousands of administration e-mails relating to Solyndra’s guarantee, said he didn’t think Abound’s closure warranted its own investigation.
“We know why they went bankrupt. We warned them they would go bankrupt,” Stearns, a Florida Republican, told reporters today. “The larger question is why the administration was pursuing a green-energy policy in which companies are going bankrupt and wasting taxpayer money.”
Stearns said his panel would probably hold a hearing on the guarantee program. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, continues to investigate the loan-guarantee program and still hasn’t received some requested documents from the Energy Department, said Jeffrey Solsby, a spokesman for Issa.
Abound was awarded the loan guarantee to build two factories to make thin-film panels using cadmium telluride. It completed one plant, in Longmont, Colorado, and never began construction on the second, which was planned for Tipton, Indiana. The company last received money from the Energy Department in August, before Solyndra’s collapse.
Representative Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, said he supported Abound because he thought the company would boost his state’s economy.
“We had a terrible economic problem. Plants were closing there in that area,” Burton told reporters in Capitol Hill today. “We thought this would be a great way to create jobs. If I had known that Abound, or Solyndra, had been in the fiscal situation it was in, I certainly would have never supported it.”
“This is not surprising at all,” Anthony Kim, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance in New York, said today in an interview. “They were trying to sell to a competitive, over- supplied market with limited production. That keeps costs high.”
The Energy Department has provided almost $35 billion in loans, loan guarantees and conditional commitments to renewable- energy companies. About 35 percent of that is for solar- generating projects, which benefit from falling panel prices, compared with less than 4 percent for solar manufacturers, according to LaVera.
Besides Abound and Solyndra, two other solar manufacturers received loan guarantees. 1366 Technologies Inc. won approval to borrow as much as $150 million to produce polysilicon for solar panels and SoloPower Inc. was awarded a $197 million guarantee to make rolls of flexible solar panels using a copper-indium- gallium-selenide composite.
Neither 1366 nor SoloPower have drawn funding under the Energy Department program, LaVera said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Martin in New York at email@example.com; Jim Snyder in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg at email@example.com
Tags: Abound Solar, Brevini Wind, Bright Automotive, Carbon Motors, EnerDel, Think Global, VAT Energies
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Dear Blog readers:
This is Part 1 of a 3-part post on newspaper articles from Muncie. The flurry of activity started last week on the Vernal Equinox (3/20/2012) or Spring Equinox. There is so much stuff out there it is making my head spin. I know that I should read and digest all this information and try to write a comprehensive blog post incorporating all this information. I might get to doing that one day but it won’t be this week. Also Inside Indiana Business has covered some aspects of these developments. See County Revises Major Economic Development Deal.
It is a shame that these stories broke at the same time that Ball State University (BSU) celebrated the dedication of the first phase of its geothermal system with a presentation by Amory Lovins with tidbits from his new book entitled, Reinventing Fire. Lovins’ new book and the geothermal dedication deserve another blog post on its own. I have been waiting, however, for the folks at BSU to post the video of the dedication so that I can post it here. I guess I need to check on that.
I don’t just want to focus on the bad news BUT I think you need to know about this stuff.
I think this activity deserves some thought and discussion. Is anyone else interested in a telephone conference call or meeting to discuss these recent developments in Indiana? Please let me know. OK?
Laura Ann Arnold
Green Energy faces hurdles in Indiana? How do you read the tea leaves?
Carbon Motors among firms struggling as bubble bursts
7:51 PM, Mar. 20, 2012, Muncie Star Press Editorial http://www.thestarpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012203210312
The Green Energy movement. It held such great economic promise just five short years ago, when some economists were predicting Indiana could add 45,000 jobs as the demand for electric vehicles, wind turbines and other products ramped up.
Now green energy has become, in many cases, an unaffordable pipe dream propped up by heavy government subsidies — that is if the startup firm managed to produce more than a prototype vehicle.
Consider the following for Indiana:
• Hybrid van maker Bright Automotive pulled the plug on operations last month after the Energy Department failed to finalize a $314 million loan three years after the company sought the money.
• Norwegian electric car maker Think Global, with a plant in Elkhart, filed for bankruptcy last year. A reorganized company with new owners plans to restart production of the tiny electric car.
• The future of Connersville’s Carbon Motors is very much in doubt as the Energy Department decided not to loan the company $310 million to produce high-tech, fuel efficient, purpose built police cars.
• EnerDel parent, Ener1, a maker of lithium-ion batteries for plug-in electric cars, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, citing competition from battery makers in China and South Korea. The company employed 250 workers last November in Indiana, but had planned to have 1,400 workers in Indianapolis before 2015. The company had supplied Think Global and other firms with batteries.
• Solar panel manufacturer Abound Solar is planning to start production in an unfinished transmission plant just west of Tipton next year. The company plans to hire between 800 and 1,000 workers as part of a $400 million federal loan guarantee. Little outward changes have been made to the building since Getrag abandoned it back in 2008.
Delaware County has not been left untouched by the bursting of the Green Energy bubble. As reported in Tuesday’s Star Press, wind and solar streetlight maker VAT Energies is essentially not operating. The promise of about 100 jobs in exchange for $1.5 million in incentives from Delaware County resulted in a couple of dozen streetlights installed and 13 more in storage in the unused BorgWarner plant.
In addition, Brevini Wind has struggled to ramp up employee numbers as the demand for wind turbines has stalled. Fortunately, gear boxes can be used in other applications, so it would be premature to write off Brevini Wind as a bust.
Delaware County officials involved with incentives deserve credit for taking steps to limit the financial loss to the county by restructuring agreements and recovering some funds already expended on VAT and Brevini.
It’s a hard rule of economics that most new businesses fail. And during the depths of the Great Recession, economic leaders were willing to see Green Energy as the holy grail of future job growth.
That might still happen, but economic conditions will have to change to make alternative energy sources and transportation economically viable.
With a gallon of gas rising 40 cents overnight to $4.19, that serves to remind that Green Energy projects might yet have some life, but the days of unbridled enthusiasm for them appear to be over.
— The (Muncie) Star Press
Abound Solar CEO: ‘Unfair Competition’ Hurting Company; Says Chinese solar companies selling below cost March 1, 2012Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, Abound Solar CEO Craig Witsoe
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updated: 3/1/2012 8:57:26 AM
Andy Ober, InsideINdianaBusiness.com
The chief executive officer of Abound Solar says Chinese solar technology companies selling products below cost are hurting operations in Indiana and Colorado. Craig Witsoe says Asian companies are driving down prices to the point that American businesses can’t compete. Despite recent layoffs in Colorado, Witsoe says Abound Solar is still committed to expanding operations in Tipton, and hopes to do so by late 2013.
Witsoe says some lawmakers are in favor of imposing tariffs on Chinese solar products. He says if that happens, competition will become level and the company could add employees sooner.
Abound Solar announced a temporary reduction of approximately 180 jobs in Colorado as part of a transition to its next generation solar modules.
The company announced plans in 2010 for more than 800 jobs in Tipton County.
Source: About Solar, Inside INdiana Business
Abound Solar halts production of pv, cuts 180 jobs; Indiana operations won’t start until company reaches capacity in Colorado February 29, 2012Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, Indiana solar manufacturing, solar PV
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February 28, 2012
As published by the IBJ at http://www.ibj.com/abound-solar-halts-production-cuts-180-jobs/PARAMS/article/32931
A Colorado-based solar module maker said Tuesday that it was suspending work on its first-generation models and laying off about 180 workers as the company focuses on a more efficient product.
Abound Solar, which hoped to hire up to 1,200 people in Indiana by the end of next year, said it plans to rehire the laid-off Colorado employees in six to nine months, after it retools equipment and manufacturing processes for the new module, Chief Financial Officer Steve Abely said. About 100 temporary workers also would be laid off, according to The Longmont Times-Call.
The Loveland-based company had about 400 employees before the cuts. Permanent workers have received severance packages.
The company received a $400 million loan guarantee from the federal government as part of a stimulus package in 2010 but has drawn less than $70 million, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
When it received the loan guarantee, Abound was projected to create 1,500 jobs in Colorado and Indiana, up from a total of about 360. Abound Solar said it still has long-term plans for the massive, unused Getrag transmission plant in Tipton, north of Indianapolis.
Less than six months ago, Abound officials said the company was on track with its original business plan, which called for adding a huge amount of manufacturing capacity in Tipton in 2012 or 2013 and hiring 900 to 1,200 people. But officials also said they wouldn’t start operations in Indiana until the company reached capacity in Colorado.
Abound Solar makes thin-film cadmium telluride solar modules. Its first-generation module performs at a 10.5-percent efficiency. The new module performs at a 12.5-percent efficiency, which would be more competitive with modules from Chinese manufacturers, Abely said.
U.S. solar industry players have been facing stiff competition from companies in China, where the government spent more than $30 billion in 2010 to subsidize its solar industry, according to U.S. energy officials.
Abound’s new solar module should save customers money, company officials said.
“While this is a difficult move with regards to temporarily reducing our work force, we know that accelerating the introduction of our next generation module will bring significant benefits to our customers and allow us to create even more jobs in the future,” CEO Craig Witsoe said in a prepared statement.
“While the challenges facing solar manufacturers have been widely reported, we continue to believe that supporting innovative companies like this is important to ensuring our nation has the ability to compete for the clean energy jobs of tomorrow,” energy department spokesman Damien LaVera said in a prepared statement.
He said the department would keep working with Abound, as it does with all loan recipients, as the company makes changes toward manufacturing a new module.
Tags: Abound Solar, Indiana solar manufacturing, solar PV
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updated: 1/19/2012 1:11:55 PM
Colorado-based Abound Solar says it remains on track to hire at least 850 people by 2014. Marketing Communications Manager Becky Ellzey tells Inside INdiana Business crews continue to work on turning an empty Tipton County building into a usable facility. Ellzey says the company plans to begin hiring workers in the second half of 2012.
Ellzey says the building currently has no utility services. She says work to make the building usable will likely continue through the first half of 2012.
Abound Solar originally announced plans to bring jobs to the area in 2010. At that time, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation offered the company more than $12 million in performance-based tax credits and training grants.
The Tipton County factory has been empty since Chrysler Group LLC and Getrac Transmission Manufacturing LLC bailed on plans to move in more than three years ago.
Source: Inside INdiana Business
Abound Solar Wants Italian Sun; Will Italian Government Extention of Current Feed-in Tariff Impact Indiana? May 3, 2011Posted by Laura Arnold in Feed-in Tariffs (FiT), Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, cadmium-telluride solar panels, Indiana solar manufacturing, Italian feed-in tariff, Mark Chen
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On Friday, the government is supposed to approve an extension of the current feed-in tariff policy – which was originally to end in June – until this August. So what does it mean for one of the hottest markets in the world? Despite anticipated cuts, the country remains sought-after by manufacturers and developers.
“Even the most pessimistic analyst will say this year Italy will still be 3-5 gigawatts,” said Mark Chen, director of marketing at Abound Solar. “Let’s say 3 gigawatts, and that’s still larger than the U.S. market.”
Abound Solar, a Colorado maker of cadmium-telluride solar panels, announced this week the signing of distribution agreements with Italian firms Thesan and DW Europe. Thesan and DW are both distributors and integrators, and Thesan in particular has designed its own mounting systems for solar panels, Chen said. Thesan is set to showcase a solar electric system design pairing Abound Solar’s panels with its own racking at the Solarexpo.
Thesan and DW Europe also have each bought solar panels in “single-digit megawatts” from Abound Solar since the start of this year, Chen said.
Italy also has been a key market for companies such as SunPower, who just announced a plan to sell a 60 percent stake to French oil and gas giant, Total, whose offer includes a $1 billion credit over five years to help fund SunPower’s power plant development business globally, among other things. SunPower bought an Italian project developer in 2010 and announced in January this year that it had built 85 megawatts of projects in that country.
Abound is among the thin-film startups who hope to expand their manufacturing operations quickly to compete in a market where crystalline silicon remains the overwhelmingly dominant technology. The need for huge capital to build factories has prompted companies large and small to turn to government or well-funded partners for help.
Chen said the Italian market – and Europe overall – remains attractive because its feed-in tariff policy puts a premium on ultra thin solar panels that can be integrated into the roof to appear less obtrusive. Thin films tend to be slimmer than silicon panels, which are roughly 6 times thicker, making thin film a more attractive option for building-integrated applications, Chen said.
“It has to do with the aesthetics and maintaining the traditional image of Italian villas and towns,” Chen said. “You have traditional tile rooftops. If you don’t have integration, then the first things you see are blue and black silicon cells not orange tiles.”
Some silicon solar panel makers, such as Suntech Power, however, have rolled out products for the building-integrated market.
Abound Solar has snagged a $400 million federal loan to help build 775 megawatts of factories in Colorado and Indiana. The company shipped about 30 megawatts of solar panels in 2010 and expects to produce close to 60 megawatts in 2011, Chen said. The company is in the process of doubling its existing, 65 megawatts of annual production capacity. When the new production equipment is up and running, the company believes it can cut manufacturing cost down to 90 cents per watt.
Abound Solar sale pushed back; Project on a Yo-yo string? November 19, 2010Posted by Laura Arnold in Uncategorized.
Tags: Abound Solar, Getrag, Indiana, Indiana Economic Development Commission (IEDC), Tipton County
The sale of an empty plant in Tipton to a solar panel manufacturer has been delayed. The Kokomo Tribune is reporting Abound Solar Inc. is waiting for the federal government to wrap up some paperwork before the deal can go through. The company says it still plans to close on the purchase of the former Getrag plant by the end of the year. Read More Energy Systems Network Chief Executive Officer Paul Mitchell discussed Abound Solar’s plans, and what they mean for the state’s clean tech sector earlier this year in a Studio(i) interview with Gerry Dick.
Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana
November 16, 2010
Abound Solar sale pushed back
Incoming solar panel manufacturer waiting on federal funding
By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer
Tipton — The sale of the future Abound Solar Inc. plant in Tipton has moved back a month after it was originally supposed to close Tuesday.
But company and Tipton County officials assured Tuesday that the sale of the former Getrag-Chrysler plant would happen this year.
Mark Chen, marketing director for Abound, said the solar panel manufacturer is waiting on the federal government to finish some “paperwork and bureaucracy” before the Colorado-based company receives the loan it needs to move to Indiana.
The sale is tentatively set to close by Dec. 16, but it could happen sooner, said Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper.
Chen said the delay should not affect the company’s timeline for beginning operations in Tipton.
Abound could start hiring locally for the expected 850 jobs in late 2011, at the earliest. Abound expects to reach substantial production in 2013, he said.
W.W. Reynolds Companies Inc., a real estate developer and property manager in Boulder, Co., plans to buy the approximately 800,000-square-foot building at the corner of U.S. 31 and Ind. 28, Chen said.
Abound plans to enter into a long-term lease with W.W. Reynolds, which is who the solar panel company rents its manufacturing plant from in Longmont, Co.
President Barack Obama announced in July the U.S. Department of Energy would award Abound a $400 million loan guarantee.
The loan requires Abound to first use $50 million to add a second manufacturing line in Longmont, then a third for another $50 million.
The company will use the remaining $300 million to begin eight lines in Tipton.
The majority of the loan will go toward machinery and other capital investments, Chen said.
Harper said the Department of Energy and other federal agencies involved with the loan know that the building’s sale needs to happen this year. The trust of contractors that owns the Tipton factory will dissolve at the end of 2010.
“These federal agencies are very well aware that it has to be done by the end of the year because of the stipulations,” Harper said. “They’ve given the company and county assurance that it will close.”
Along with the $400 million loan, she noted, Tipton County has also invested $13 million in bonds for the property that helped the owners reduce the selling cost, which is in the $40-million range.
“If this doesn’t happen,” Harper said, “then they are well aware that a lot of entities would lose on this.”
The company after the July announcement originally was quiet about when it would close on the former transmission plant. But in September, Abound said an increasing demand for its products led it to speed up its expansion so it could keep up with orders.
The building has sat empty at the northeast corner of U.S. 31 and Ind. 28 since 2008 when Getrag and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. Both companies backed out of the nearly complete construction of a transmission plant, leaving unpaid contractor bills. A federal court last year turned over ownership to a trust of the contractors.
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
// // //
Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana
September 23, 2010
Abound bumping up move to Tipton
Company will close on former Getrag plant in mid-November
By KEN de la BASTIDE and DANIEL HUMAN
Tribune staff writers
TIPTON — The Colorado solar panel manufacturer planning to move into the never-used transmission plant in Tipton County could come to Indiana about two years sooner than originally expected, company and county officials said Wednesday.
Abound Solar Inc. plans to close Nov. 16 on its purchase of the former Getrag Transmission LLC plant at the corner of U.S. 31 and Ind. 28, said company spokesman Mark Chen.
The company originally planned to have created 850 jobs by 2013, but hiring could now begin as soon as late 2011, Chen said.
The solar panel manufacturer is moving forward with its plans more quickly to keep up with the increasing number of orders it is receiving, Chen said.
Abound hasn’t finished mapping out how many of the 850 jobs it would initially create or when operations would begin in Tipton, he said.
President Barack Obama announced in July that Abound Solar would receive a $400 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to expand its operations in Colorado, then purchase the never-used, approximately 800,000-square-foot factory.
The company had one manufacturing line in place before the loan at its plant in Longmont, Colo.
The Department of Energy will give Abound $50 million to put in a second line and another $50 million for a third in Longmont. The company will then receive $300 million to install eight lines in Tipton.
Tipton County Commissioner Jane Harper said Abound exercised its option to purchase the building from a trust established in 2009 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Michigan after Getrag filed for bankruptcy protection.
The company has entered into a binding agreement with the trust, Harper said.
Abound is purchasing the building from the trust for $25 million with Tipton County providing $13 million through Tax Increment Financing to lower the purchase price, she said.
The proceeds of the sale will go to contractors who were not paid for work done when Getrag filed for bankruptcy.
“This is the best deal for Tipton County,” Harper said of Abound purchasing the facility. “It fits best with the community and our green technology.
“With our predominant agricultural base, the establishment of Abound Solar at the crossroads of our community and three wind-energy companies with plans to place wind farms in our county, we can create a unique marketing opportunity in selling Tipton County and its products as the ‘green’ capital,” she said.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. offered Abound Solar Inc. up to $11.85 million in performance-based tax credits and $250,000 in training grants based on the company’s job creation plans. The IEDC will also provide work force and ombudsperson assistance.
Tipton County has approved additional incentives, including tax abatements for the company along with TIF money to the trust that owns the building.
The Getrag plant was being constructed as a joint venture between Chrysler and Germany-based Getrag. The plant was expected to provide more than 1,000 jobs. But soon before construction ended in 2008, Chrysler pulled out of the agreement and filed a lawsuit against Getrag. Getrag then filed for bankruptcy and backed out of the project, leaving the plant empty since.
• Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765-454-8580 or at email@example.com . Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .