MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A solar panel manufacturer based in Washington state is planning to open a plant in south Minneapolis early next year.

Itek Energy co-founder Kelly Samson says they'll move into an existing building in January or February.

Samson attended the first Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association conference in Bloomington. He told reporters Tuesday the solar industry has grown to be intensely competitive in recent years. Many states, like Minnesota, have enacted solar incentives which have helped drive record sales.

A federal solar tax credit will drop from 30 percent of the project's cost to 10 percent after 2016.

Samson declined to disclose the amount of the investment. He says the plant will initially employ a small number of people. Itek's operation in Bellingham, Washington employs about 75 workers.