ND wind energy company to cut hours for factory retooling, but no permanent layoffs

Body: 

GRAND FORKS—LM Wind Power will send some of its Grand Forks employees home for the next few weeks, but officials with the wind blade manufacturer say the move will not result in permanent layoffs.

The factory said it plans to prepare for "a new layout and 2018 production," which will result in downtime as employees move equipment within the facility.

"A portion of our employees will be required to take time off over the next few weeks to accommodate this change, during a time when many are already planning to be on vacation," LM Wind spokeswoman Tricia Weber said in a statement. "This is a temporary measure and will not result in permanent layoffs at the facility."

The company plans to expand its Grand Forks facility by 3,400 square feet to accommodate the manufacturing of larger blades to meet changing industry demands. The city's Jobs Development Authority approved the roughly $2 million project in August. The JDA had to approve the project because it owns the 124,800-square-foot building. The authority approved a three-year lease for LM Wind, with a clause that factors in additional payments for the expansion.

Construction for the project was slated to begin in April.

Responding to a "dramatic reduction" in wind turbine installations for the U.S. in 2010, LM Wind laid off about 150 workers at the Grand Forks plant in 2011. The company announced in September 2012 it would lay off another 345 employees in Grand Forks, blaming inaction on wind subsidies from the U.S. government.

That reduced the workforce in Grand Forks to about 270 employees, but an extension of the wind production tax credit prompted LM Wind to boost its Grand Forks workforce to almost 600 workers by the end of 2013.

The wind industry has seen a building surge for wind towers across the country, becoming the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. earlier this year. Of the 3,000 megawatts that came online from 2006 to 2016 in North Dakota, about 1,000 megawatts powered up last year.

Hiring for LM Wind grew to about 1,000 by this summer.

General Electric acquired LM Wind's assets earlier this year with a $1.65 billion deal.

Weber was asked how many employees would be affected by the required time off, but she said she could not provide that number Thursday.