FREEPORT – The county is engaged in initial talks with two wind-turbine manufacturers about building plants in Stephenson County, potentially creating as many as 100 new jobs.
This development comes as plans move forward for establishing two new wind farms in the county. The possible manufacturing plants and wind farms are separate but related projects.
If built – and that’s still uncertain at this point – the projects have the potential to make Stephenson County a center for “wind energy development and manufacturing,” said County Board Chairman John Blum, who recently briefed County Board officials on the discussions.
No agreements have been reached, and the county declined to immediately name the interested companies. The plants would likely be built in the Mill Race Industrial Park, which includes about 143 acres at the northeast corner of Lamm and Springfield roads south of Freeport.
“We want to be a leader in not only wind-energy production but wind-energy manufacturing,” Blum said.
The wind-farm projects include EcoGrove Wind LLC, a wind farm proposed for a site northwest of Lena by Freeport-based EcoEnergy LLC, a division of The Morse Group, and Lancaster Wind Farm LLC, a farm proposed for the Dakota area by Navitas Energy of Minneapolis.
Officials declined to release any specific information about the manufacturing companies, because the negotiations are still preliminary. However, Shawn Gaffney, president of EcoEnergy, said one company’s plant would manufacture turbines for wind towers, and the other would make towers and turbine blades. EcoEnergy has acted as a facilitator for discussions between the manufacturing companies and the county, Gaffney said.
The main benefit of the plants would be additional jobs and property tax revenue for the county, officials said. Bob Skurla, executive director of the Freeport Area Economic Development Foundation, said another benefit is that the plants, if built, would be unlikely to close or move away because Stephenson County is in a favorable location near wind farms in the midwest.
“They both are manufacturers that are representative companies in a growing industry,” Skurla said.
Specific figures were not available regarding jobs and tax revenue that would be generated by the proposed plants. Even so, Skurla said the jobs would be “fairly high-paying” technical jobs.
A time frame on these projects was not available, but Blum said he will keep the County Board informed as progress is made.
By Travis Morse, The Journal-Standard
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