LM Glasfiber to Cut 150 Jobs, Idle Scott Hamilton Plant


LM Glasfiber said Tuesday that it will idle production at its facility on Scott Hamilton Drive in Little Rock and cut 150 jobs in the capital city as a result of the nationwide credit crunch, which the wind blade manufacturer said is causing delays in wind projects.

The company, which said it will still employ more than 350 in Arkansas and more than 1,300 in North America, said the company expanded rapidly in 2008 Little Rock but is now preparing for "weaker growth in the short term."

"We remain strongly committed to our North American operations, including our new regional headquarters in Little Rock," Randy Fox, vice president general manager of LM's North American operations, said in a news release. "The toughest thing is the immediate impact on some of our employees, who have been instrumental with the launching of Little Rock's operations. These are steps we truly wish we didn't have to take."

The credit crunch has affected other companies in the wind industry.

LM Glasfiber, a Danish company, announced in July 2007 that it would put its $150 million North American headquarters at the Port of Little Rock. The plant makes fiberglass wind turbine blades

The company also set up shop on Scott Hamilton Drive. It completed its facility at the port in October. The company employed about 630 in central Arkansas by then and projected to reach 1,000 by 2012.

In Tuesday's announcement, the company said the Scott Hamilton facility will be idled, with about 60 of those jobs added to its Port of Little Rock site, which will become a 24-hour-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation.

LM Glasfiber said the total number of job reductions in Little Rock "is estimated to be over 150, with the company still employing over 350 in Arkansas and more than 1,300 in North America."

The transition will begin in about 60 days, Fox said.

In a news release, Fox said that the company's North American operations "grew significantly in 2008. As a result of that growth, the Scott Hamilton facility, which was originally intended to be a training center, was brought online as a production plant to meet growing customer demand.

"But, due to the credit crunch the company now predicts lower growth rates in the short term. The reduction for volume out of the Arkansas operations does not support the need to maintain Scott Hamilton as a production facility," the company said.

"The credit crunch is now causing project delays in developer's wind projects due to more difficult financing conditions," Fox said. "As a natural result we must take necessary steps to keep the company on the road to a solid, sustainable future."

Fox said the long-term outlook for wind is "strong." He said the U.S. is still the world's top wind energy market.

"We're confident that the long term demand will rebound, and the difficult decisions being made today will help put us in the best position to ramp back up when it does," he said.

LM Galsfiber also has production facilities in Grand Forks, N.D., and Gaspe, Quebec, Canada.

Since LM Glasfiber's 2007 announcement to locate in central Arkansas, several other wind power companies have announced plans to put operations in the state.  

Nordex USA Inc. announced it would invest $100 million in a Jonesboro plant, which could eventually employ 700. The company will build the plant on a 187-site in the Craighead Technology Park.

Polymarin Composite USA Ltd. of the Netherlands, a wholly owned subsidiary of Emergya Wind Technologies, announced it would invest $16 million in a Little Rock plant that will build windmill blades, employing 630 over four years.

Wind Water Technology, a Polymarin supplier, also announced it will employ 200 at the Polymarin plant. Wind Water will make wind turbine components at the site.

Last month, Gov. Mike Beebe hinted that another company in the industry might be interested in coming to Arkansas.

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