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CS Wind stops producing wind turbines in Windsor

Hundreds of people are out of work after CS Wind, which moved to Windsor with great fanfare and $10 million in incentives, shut down its local factory.

The lights were out, the doors were locked and the building looked deserted Thursday at the company’s Canadian headquarters at 9355 Anchor Dr.

“There’s no one working there,” Fred MacPherson, business manager for Ironworkers Local 721, said from Toronto. “We used to have 300 people working there and now there’s none.”

Representatives of CS Wind, a South Korean wind turbine producer, could not be reached for comment this week.

Only a couple of people were in the Windsor factory on Thursday, including a security guard keeping watch over the empty hallways, abandoned loading docks and idle equipment.

One of them said there has not been production at the site in many months, and the company was shipping its equipment to other facilities overseas.

The Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation said they “have been given no confirmation” that CS Wind had stopped production.

“Since we have not had any confirmation from CS Wind as to closing, it would be inappropriate for us to comment,” Lana Drouillard, director of marketing and communications, said in an email.

Mayor Drew Dilkens couldn’t be reached for comment.

MacPherson said the explanation he heard for the shutdown was a lack of work after the province cancelled hundreds of renewable energy contracts.

“Because the new government has stopped all wind projects that were on the shelf,” he said.

The Conservative government announced it was cancelling or winding down 758 “unnecessary and wasteful” renewable energy contracts in the summer of 2018, claiming it would reduce hydro rates.

That was around the same time, according to the person at the CS Wind plant on Thursday, that the company started winding down its local production.

It wasn’t clear if the company has sold the Anchor Drive property. According to a land registry search, CS Wind bought the former Valiant factory in 2011 for $16.5 million after the City of Windsor gave up its first right of refusal. The company took out a $15 million mortgage in 2015, the same year it started advertising job fairs with an urgent need to fill vacant positions.

The registry search did not show any recent transactions involving the building.

CS Wind was one of four companies that set up shop in Ontario to build wind towers for industrial giant Samsung. In 2010, the province struck a controversial multi-billion green energy deal with Samsung that included more than $100 million in incentives and an agreement to buy energy at above-market rates.

Siemens, another of the four companies, announced in 2017 it was closing its Tillsonburg plant and putting 340 people out of work.

CS Wind also received incentives from the City of Windsor – worth about $10 million – to set up shop here.

The deal required that the city make several land acquisitions at a cost of about $8 million, and pay for railroad infrastructure additions pegged at $2 million.
At its height, CS Wind had as many as 460 employees in Windsor. By the summer of 2017, there were 125 unionized workers at the plant. The company refused to say then how many non-unionized employees it had.

Workers at the plant ratified their first collective agreement with the Ironworkers Local 721 in February 2016. A couple weeks later, citing a lack of work, the company laid off 51 people. The following July, CS Wind announced a six-week shutdown affecting all 345 employees it had in Windsor at the time, again blaming a lack of work.