North Dakota may have one of the strongest economies in the nation, but it`s still losing businesses from time to time. This week, Schuff Steel announced it would not be building a wind tower manufacturing plant at the Northern Plains Commerce Center.
The wind energy market has experienced a 70% decline since reaching historic high levels in 2009, lowering the demand for conventional tube wind towers.
Russell Staiger, President of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association explained, “There have been shutdowns of production facilities including other tubular tower facilities. Generators, turbine systems have been shut down, it`s across the board.”
Energy companies say people are using less electricity than they did a couple years ago and the price of natural gas has also been low for the past two years. But those aren`t the only reasons wind energy projects are slowing down.
“It`s for a variety of factors; the market is down, financing is down here in the U.S. The lack of Congressional action of providing for the long term tax credits and renewable standards are all affecting it,” said Staiger.
The plant would have created between 250 and 300 new jobs in Bismarck. Schuff decided to build a plant in Kansas instead because it would be closer to its customers, require less manpower and could create a product that would be cheaper and easier to transport.
Staiger said, “Schuff made a business decision. I don`t fault them for that. Obviously, we would have liked to see the jobs here but understandably, they`re not.”
Cathy Spencer manages the Northern Plains Commerce Center and says she`s disappointed it didn`t work out with Schuff but that other companies are looking at the property, and development in the western part of the state is bringing them new business.
Spencer added, “Got about 320 tons of rebar on the ground as of right now, more coming in. A lot of it is going up in to the oil fields. We`re starting to see an interest to bring pine in , sheet, steel. Again, a lot of that is going into the oil industry.”
Energy experts say they expect wind industry development to pick up as the economy improves.
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