by Lance Turner
Posted 7/18/2007 03:04 pm
Updated 11 months ago
LM Glasfiber's $150 million fiberglass wind turbine blade production plant in at the Little Rock Port will include the Danish company's North American headquarters and a workforce training center, a company official said Wednesday.
LM Glasfiber announced plans for the plant, which it said will employ 500 in the fall and eventually more than 1,000, in a news release early Wednesday morning. It announced additional plans at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol with Gov. Mike Beebe, state and regional economic development officials, and Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola.
Beebe said LM Glasfiber wants to break ground on its plant at the port in September.
Warren Ault, LM Glasfiber's national account manager, said the company chose Arkansas for the project because of its workforce and geographic location. He cited easy access to two Interstates, rail lines and the Arkansas River as particularly beneficial. He said the amount of incentives provided by economic developers were a minor component in the company's decision making.
Beebe said the incentives the company receives are dependent on how much investment the company makes in the area. The state Legislature earlier this year approved a specific incentives measure to provide a major income tax break for a windmill blade manufacturer with the condition that the company commit to a minimum $150 million investment and employ 500 to 1,000 people over time.
Beyond those incentives, Beebe said the state provided $8 million in Economic Infrastructure Funds and $8.9 million in quick-action closing funds.
Economic Infrastructure Funds, created by Act 498 in 2001, provide financial assistance for expansion of the aircraft and aerospace industry and for port and waterway economic development projects.
Quick-action closing funds were created by the Legislature this year. It is a $50 million fund to be used at the governor's discretion to close economic development deals.
Ault said most of the jobs the plant will need to fill will be manufacturing jobs. He did not specify a salary range except to say worker will receive "competitive" and "living wage" jobs. But Ault said making turbine blades is craft workers will have to learn.
Ault said making the blades is a "craft," and not assembly-line work.
LM Glasfiber, based in Denmark, makes fiberglass blades for wind turbines that generate power. Ault said the smallest blades the company makes are 123 feet long. The largest blades stretch to more than 200 feet.
Ault said the United States is now the hottest market in terms of demand for wind turbine blades in the world. Texas makes up the largest amount of demand — 25 percent — per year, ahead of the upper Midwest, the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest and some states in the Northeast.
Ault said the Little Rock plant will be designed with expansion in mind. Much of the demand for the blades is tied to federal energy policy. Ault noted that the company is growing at 100 percent per year and "barely keeping even with demand."
Beebe said he's confident that the company will have no trouble meeting its targets.
Speaking at the news conference, new Arkansas Economic Development Commission Executive Director Maria Haley thanked several members of a team of business and city leaders who works to land the project, which had been code named "Zephyrus," after the Greek god of the west winds.
Among them were Mike Mauldin and Donnie Gains of Entergy Arkansas; Jay Chesshir, president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce; Joey Dean, executive director of the Metro Little Rock Alliance; and Paul Latture, executive director of the Little Rock Port Authority.
Haley also noted Beebe's participation, and said the governor was personally involved in each step of the process.
"He has set a clear vision for economic development in the state, and we are following his vision," Haley said.
Stodola said the plant's training facility was important to Little Rock, so that the city's citizens could learn the skills necessary to work at the plant.
The plant is also a boost economically. Stodola noted that, including projects by LM Glasfiber and Welspun Pipes, Little Rock has announced more than $400 million in investments in the last 30 days.