LM Glasfiber Inc. on Tuesday officially marked the opening of its new North American headquarters in Little Rock.
The company said it will invest about $150 million in the plant and Little Rock.
Tuesday's event took place behind the company's new building, which stretches across the Port of Little Rock site like a thin, white rectangle. The first shovel hit the ground last October; preparations for building the Little Rock site began in the summer of 2007.
It was an interesting road to get to this point. The process of luring the wind-power firm came about at the last minute of LM Glasfiber's search process, Gov. Mike Beebe said.
"I don't think he understood anything I said, and I don't think I understood anything he said," Beebe joked Tuesday about conversations that took place between Arkansas' top executive and the company's CEO, Roland M. Sundén.
But the company's leadership and Arkansas officials formed a close relationship, Beebe said.
"We've got roots here in Arkansas and we want to expand," Randy Fox, LM Glasfiber's North American general manager, said.
Fox said that the wind power industry is expected to double in the next eight years and that energy demands will double by 2030.
"Little Rock is part of that giant plan," Fox said.
Fox works at the company's facility on Scott Hamilton Drive. The Scott Hamilton site houses LM Glasfiber's North American headquarters. Over the next five years, the company plans to employ more than 1,000 people between that site and its plant at the Port of Little Rock.
Currently, about 630 Arkansans work for the company in Little Rock.
The company operates the two Little Rock plants five days a week with two shifts, Fox said. The hope is to operate the two plants seven days a week as employment reaches its goal of more than 1,000, he said. Even without the added production, the company is meeting 100 percent of its orders on time, Fox said.
The average pay for employees equals about $13 per hour, Adam Ruple, HR director, said, noting that the company offers a benefits package that includes full health coverage and three weeks of vacation.
LM Glasfiber hopes increase employees to 1,000 within four years and is now hiring about one in three applicants referred to the company and one in seven applicants found at job fairs the company has attended.
The Denmark-based company has said North America "is and will remain the most important market for wind energy in the years to come."
With the new plant, LM Glasfiber will double its North American capacity, he company said. The production halls of the newest facility have the capacity to handle even the largest blades made by LM, which measure 61.5 meters - about 70 yards, - the company said. The new factory easily measures more than 100 yards in length
The Little Rock plant is the 13th LM Glasfiber factory and the fourth in North America.
The process that led to the plant came about by chance, Jay Chesshir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, said.
Joey Dean, executive director of the Metro Little Rock Alliance, learned on Feb. 9, 2007, - a Friday - that the company considered the Little Rock area as the "third of three sites," Chesshir said, adding that the 11-county region making up the alliance was a "distant third."
Dean sent an e-mail to the heads of chambers and other officials in the 11 counties. The catch was that any interested party needed to submit a proposal by the following Monday. Apparently, Beebe, Maria Haley, head of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, and other officials began aggressively courting the manufacturer at that point.
"For reasons of economic, environmental and national security, this is a great day," Beebe said.
Beebe also said that LM Glasfiber's decision to locate in Little Rock directly contributed to the two other wind-related economic development announcements made in Arkansas over the past year.
Last Friday, 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 plant. Wind Water will make wind turbine components at the site.
LM Glasfiber also has North American plants in Grand Forks, N.D., and Gaspe, Quebec, Canada.