LM Wind Power, the wind turbine blade manufacturer, plans to add more jobs at its Little Rock plant a year after it cut more than half of its workforce.
The company said Monday it expects to employ more than 400 people at the plant by the end of the year as it continues to expand its workforce after the yearlong extension of the federal production tax credit in January.
“We are pleased to see that the market is improving again following a period of low activity due to uncertainty around the [tax credit],” Bill Burga Jr., LM Wind Power’s head of operations in the Americas, said in a prepared statement.
LM Wind Power also said Monday it is adding more than 850 jobs in the U.S. to handle an increase in orders.
The Denmark-based company said it has already increased its U.S. workforce from 350 employees in April to 700 in August and expects to expand next year by adding about 1,200 jobs nationwide.
“With the political framework in place, our customers are winning more business again and we are ready to serve their demand for highly efficient quality blades for the US market, adding hundreds of extra jobs,” Burga said in the statement. “Now it is crucial that the politicians remain committed to securing a stable economic framework to enable continued industry growth and increased US employment.”
In January, Congress approved the extension of a 2.2 cent per kilowatt-hour renewable power production tax credit. But the delay in approval of the credit created uncertainty in the industry for most of last year, leading to many layoffs and a slowdown in production.
In August 2012, LM Wind Power laid off more than half of its workforce in Little Rock. The company said the layoffs were the result of the delay in the renewal of the credit.
At the time of the announcement, the plant employed about 300 full-time workers and 140 temporary employees. LM Wind Power laid off 80 hourly employees and 14 salaried employees, and cut its temporary positions.
Members in the industry have said the delay in the extension also hampered production earlier this year.
“When the [tax credit] was extended in January it shot new life in the industry, but it took us a while to ramp back up,” said Elizabeth Salerno, director of industry data and analysis at the American Wind Energy Association.
The decline in demand in the U.S. market led Nordex USA Inc. to announced earlier this year it would end production at its wind turbine facility in Jonesboro and lay off about 40 employees starting this month.
The company said it would move its production operations to Germany, where its parent company, Nordex SE, has its headquarters.
Nordex started production in Jonesboro in 2010 with plans to create at least 700 jobs, but the company only employed 100 at the most. When Nordex announced the layoffs in June, the company employed 50 workers in Jonesboro.
To help speed production, a change was made to the tax credit when it was renewed in January. Instead of having to complete construction of wind farms by the end of 2013 to qualify for the credit, companies merely have to begin construction on projects this year.
Industry members asked for the credit to be altered because they said it takes 18 to 24 months to develop a wind farm.
Salerno said the change allowed companies to sign long-term contracts for projects starting this year, which has helped with financing.
“We are going to see a significant amount of activity in projects,” Salerno said.
Whether or not the tax credit will be extended into 2014 is still unknown.
“Discussions on Capitol Hill continue over comprehensive tax reform,” said Peter Kelley, spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association. “As a result, [the association] is focusing on the tax reform process, since an extenders package isn’t likely to move while tax reform is active and being discussed.”
U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, RArk., said the tax credit is “part of the conversation” in developing a tax overhaul package.
“We are working on a package and we are considering anything and everything,” he said.
Business, Pages 23 on 10/08/2013
Print Headline: Turbine maker adding LR jobs