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County suing manufacturer over LEDA funds

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County is suing a lighting manufacturer for nearly $640,000 in Local Economic Development Act funding and other charges related to what it alleges is a breach of contract.

The county says it gave Noribachi Group LLC $750,000 in LEDA funds to build a 50,000-square-foot solar product manufacturing facility that would provide a minimum of 200 jobs a year beginning in 2013, but that the company never started construction, according to the complaint.

The company in 2014 entered into an agreement with the county in which it would repay a total of $673,325 over three installments, according to the complaint, but it allegedly defaulted.

“The County has suffered substantial damages including, but not limited to, loss of the use of funds, principal, interest, attorneys’ fees, and costs of collections,” an attorney for the county wrote in court filings.

Noribachi has not responded to a request for comment. The county declined to comment on pending litigation.

Noribachi is headquartered in Harbor City, Calif., according to its website, which also says it was “founded as a clean-energy incubator in Albuquerque.”

In 2011, the county considered a $4.5 million loan for Noribachi, according to Journal archives, though commissioners raised questions at the time about whether the deal would adequately protect taxpayers. The county’s 2011 financial report describes a “Noribachi deal that never materialized.” That deal included a lease-purchase agreement involving the New Mexico State Economic Redevelopment Loan Fund and an equipment rental and repayment program through the state Economic Development Department.

In response to a request for documents related to transactions with Noribachi, the county asked the Journal to file a public records request.

Noribachi’s website indicates that the company has shifted its focus from solar to light emitting diode (LED) technology.