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LM Wind Power adds jobs in Grand Forks

By John Hageman

GRAND FORKS -- Wind turbine blade maker LM Wind Power, one of the area's largest manufacturers, will have almost 600 employees in Grand Forks at the end of 2013, the company announced Monday.

The news comes a year after LM laid off more than half of its local workers.

The company, based in Denmark, went from having 350 employees in the United States in April to 700 in August, according to a company press release. In 2014, it plans on growing to 1,200 workers.

The Grand Forks facility will be home to 570 employees by the end of 2013, according to the company. A plant in Little Rock, Ark., will have 400.

The company cited the extension of the federal wind production tax credit early this year as the driver of demand.

"We kind of follow the market," said Bill Burga Jr., the head of operations for LM Wind Power's Americas division. "Our customers are influenced by that tax credit."

Monday's announcement comes after the company announced in September 2012 that it was laying off 345 employees, bringing its workforce down to 270, due in part to the production tax credit's uncertain future. Congress extended it for one year on Jan. 1.

Rob Gramlich, senior vice president of public policy for the American Wind Energy Association, testified before a congressional committee last week that the tax credit's impending expiration last year had a "devastating impact" on the industry.

"Investment was put on hold and factories halted production and project installations came to a standstill," Gramlich testified.

According to Gramlich, the extension allows project owners to reduce their tax bill by 2.3 cents every kilowatt hour of electricity produced over a 10-year period. Companies can apply for the credit if significant progress has been made on a project before the end of 2013, when the tax credit is set to expire.

For the time being, Burga said he expects to see plenty of demand.

"Hopefully it's sustainable," Burga said. "From what we can see, it's going to keep us very, very busy through the end of 2014."