March 8, 2012

Wind company bags plans for Marlborough R&D facility

By Kendall Hatch/Daily News staff, MetroWest Daily News, 8 March 2012

MARLBOROUGH – A global wind turbine manufacturer told city officials last month it is backing out of a plan to build a 27,000-square-foot research and development facility in the city.

Wind company Vestas, headquartered in Denmark, went through a round of corporate restructuring early this year. One of the casualties, a company spokesman said yesterday, is the $16 million research and development facility that was slated to go on Crowley Drive.

The entire project would have brought at least 60 new jobs to the city, company officials said.

“The whole restructuring included a change in leadership at the research and development level,” said Andrew Longeteig, spokesman for Vestas American Wind Technology Inc. He said several other parts of the company’s operations were also affected.

The company is still moving forward with plans to lease office space in a building on Crowley Drive next to where the research facility would be.

The initial news of the plans for research facility, which would have added several jobs, had been met with fanfare by local and state officials.

Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan joined former Mayor Nancy Stevens and Vestas representatives at a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in November.

Patrick praised local and state officials for making the state an attractive place for clean energy companies to locate.

The City Council last summer approved a 10-year tax increment financing deal with Vestas. The agreement would have given the company a partial property tax exemption for a decade, beginning this July.

The company also applied for and received state incentives under the Economic Development Incentive Program, through the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council.

Then the company in February wrote letters to the Massachusetts Office of Business Development and Mayor Arthur Vigeant, telling them that the project was canceled and asking them to decertify both agreements.

Company officials said in the letters that no public funding had been used on the project.

The company is in the process of combining offices in Marlborough and Hudson and moving workers into the leased space on Crowley Drive.

Doug Pizzi, spokesman for First Colony Development, which owns the building and sold the lot to Vestas, said the developer was disappointed the project isn’t moving forward, but is glad that the office building, which was built in 2009, will have tenants.

Longeteig said yesterday the office will employ 40 people. Already existing offices in Marlborough and Hudson employed 16 and 18 employees, respectively, in the fall. The company has since hired a few more workers, bringing the total to 40.

The company purchased the 8.5-acre lot at 100 Crowley Drive for $1.85 million in September.

Building Commissioner Steve Reid said yesterday that the company had begun to do preparation work on the lot.

City officials yesterday said they were disappointed the facility wasn’t going to be built, but thanked the company for being up-front about the deal falling through and asking to cancel the tax deal.

“I think it’s the goal for just about everybody on the council to engage in economic development,” said City Council President Patricia Pope. “This was a little bit of a setback. I think we will rebound and we will be just fine.”

“At the time, it certainly seemed promising,” said Michael Berry, executive aide to Vigeant. “Everyone is disappointed but that’s just how things are.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs chief Sullivan said that statewide, clean energy is still growing and pointed out that the Vestas project as it remains is still a net job growth.

“The Patrick-Murray administration has made the clean energy industry a key part of our job creation strategy,” he said. “As a result, the industry grew by 6.7 percent last year with nearly 5,000 companies employing over 64,000 clean energy workers in Massachusetts.”

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