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Wind farm jobs a hot topic in community  

HURON COUNTY – Workers involved with the Harvest Wind Farm, LLC say that contrary to some of the rumors flying around the county, there are people from the area and Michigan who have jobs at the project site located in Oliver and Chandler townships.

But they’d always like to see more.

“We would like to have more Michigan workers – we want local workers on there,” said Jeff Sawyer, business agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 of the Saginaw area.

Sawyer said approximately six workers from Local 324 are involved with the project. They are mainly crane operators and dozer hands.

He said concerning the whole project, he’d like to see at least the number of workers from Michigan increased.

“These are Michigan jobs – they should have Michigan people here,” Sawyer said. It was announced in June that Wolverine Power Cooperative signed a 20-year purchase agreement with Harvest Wind Farm, LLC for renewable energy from the company’s wind farm that will consist of 32 wind turbines on 3,200 acres between Elkton and Pigeon.

John Deere Wind Energy is the principal owner of the Harvest Wind Farm project and is serving as the project developer.

The project was touted as being able to create as many as 80 jobs during the construction phase. Six to 10 permanent employees are expected to be hired to operate and maintain the wind farm.

But just who is getting those jobs has been the source of some controversy as of late following the July 4 arrest of two illegal immigrants who were stopped by Michigan State Police troopers from the Bad Axe post for speeding in Colfax Township.

It was learned that both were employees of the Wisconsin-based Sanderfoot Wind and Excavating, Inc., which is a subcontractor hired by the wind farm’s general contractor, Alliant Energy EPC, LLC.

Earlier this week, Sanderfoot Wind and Excavating, Inc. defended its employment practices in light of the recent allegations about the immigration status of the two employees.

“I was troubled to hear about this situation,” said Tom Sanderfoot, president of Sanderfoot Wind and Excavating, in a press release to the Huron Daily Tribune. “We screen our employees using a detailed process required by the United States Department of Homeland Security. Being in compliance with government screening regulations is important to us.”

Not everyone was happy to find some of the jobs were given to illegal aliens and out-of-state employees.

State Rep. Terry Brown, D-Pigeon said he was disappointed to learn some of the workers on the project weren’t even from Michigan.

“They should be Huron, Tuscola or at least mid-Michigan jobs,” he said. “There certainly are enough qualified people in mid-Michigan that can do these jobs.” Brown said he’s recently talked with John Deere Wind Energy and has been assured many jobs are being filled locally.

Barbara Robins, communications director for Wind Connect, which is a unit of Alliant Energy EPC, LLC., could not confirm the number of workers that are from the area or state of Michigan who are involved in the Harvest Wind Farm.

“The exact numbers, I’m not sure of … but I do know that we encourage all of the subcontractors we hired to hire locally when they can,” Robins said.

Sometimes it’s hard to fill all jobs with local workers because many subcontractors have specialized staff that move with them from site to site, she said.

Robins emphasized that there is an effort to use local companies when it’s possible. And just because not all of the jobs are going to Thumb area or Michigan residents, doesn’t mean it’s not helping the area and state, she said. “We estimated there might be up to $4 million of local purchases of goods and services that would result from the construction of the Harvest Wind Farm,” Robins said. “Most communities we do wind projects in, there is a positive impact in the community in terms of revenue from buying goods and services.”

Kate Finneren-Hessling

Huron Daily Tribune

13 July 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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