Oakridge Global Energy Solutions Corp., a manufacturer of lithium batteries for drones, radio-controlled vehicles, golf carts, home energy storage units and electric vehicles, received approval this summer from the state of Florida, Brevard County and the city of Palm Bay for a series of property tax breaks and other incentives.
The incentives were based on Oakridge's promise of creating 1,000 jobs paying an average of $50,075 a year, and making a $270 million capital investment.
But it’s recently been reported by Oakridge employees that they’re not getting paid and the company is not producing anything.
Local news station WESH Channel 2 covered Oakridge last year when it was contending with a similar situation. According to the new outlet, the company’s CEO Steve Barber said at the time that pay interruptions are normal for a startup company.
But things have gotten so bad that one employee, who said she just recently applied for unemployment and food assistance, told WESH that when investors come in, they are allegedly asked to stand around machines that do not work, and just act like they are working.
CEO Barber has acknowledged the pay gaps, but denies that it’s been for as long as employees are telling the media. But he also wants some sympathy: Success in the American manufacturing sector is hard to achieve, said Barber, and Oakridge outsiders ought to consider the difficulty of establishing a successful manufacturing venture in the United States before they pass judgment on the company.
It’s hard to not pass judgement when the business held a mid-October ribbon cutting ceremony, when all the while employees were wondering when their cash was coming. And while the providers of the tax incentives have an out – the company doesn’t receive the money unless they provide the promised 1,000 jobs – it’s unlikely the employees have a way to protect themselves from being taken advantage of.