May 25, 2012

Nordic Windpower sees its plans for Kansas City, incentives spin out

Paul Koepp, Reporter | Kansas City Business Journal | 25 May 2012

Nordic Windpower USA has failed to create the 200 jobs envisioned when it announced its move to Kansas City in December 2010, jeopardizing $5.6 million in incentives, and a former board member said the company is in dire straits.

The wind turbine manufacturer had plans to make a capital investment of nearly $16 million, relocate its California headquarters and move its Idaho manufacturing operations to a facility at the KCI Intermodal BusinessCentre.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the incentives package to help the company set up shop to produce its distinctive two-blade turbines. The package was to include a community development block grant, training programs and sales tax exemptions.

But John Fougere, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Economic Development, said the state’s incentive programs have strict job-creation criteria that Nordic did not meet.

“Nordic Windpower did not create the jobs it pledged to create in its application for state incentives,” Fougere said. “Thus, the company did not receive any funding or tax credits from the state of Missouri.”

As of the Business Journal’s deadline, the DED had not supplied more information about how many jobs Nordic created.

Nordic CEO Jeff Brown declined to comment on the company’s status. Brown, a veteran of GE Energy Services, became CEO in June after the departure of Tom Carbone.

Pierre Lamond, a noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist and partner at California-based Khosla Ventures, said he joined Nordic’s board about six months ago but left in April.

“They were running out of cash and thinking about shutting the company down,” Lamond said. “They were counting too much on having subsidies from the U.S. government, and that doesn’t always work.”

He said Nordic had problems with defective parts from a vendor.

More generally, he said, energy startups are hampered by a federal green power tax credit that will end after this year.

Lamond said he left Nordic because he “didn’t think there was anything salvageable.”

At one point, the company seemed to have little trouble securing financing. Nordic received a conditional $16 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009. It announced a $38 million equity financing round in January 2010 that Khosla led.

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