A wind-blade manufacturing plant in Little Rock, Arkansas will be closing soon, putting an estimated 500 employees out of work.
As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported, LM Wind Power announced this week to shut down operations, not because of the COVID-19 pandemic but because of declining demand for its giant blades. The LM workers in Little Rock produced 144.6-foot and 204-foot blades for industrial wind farms.
Manufacturing will cease at the end of April, with 370 job losses occurring then, while about 100 employees will be asked to remain on-site until the plant is fully closed by the end of the year, a spokesman said.
Employees will be paid salaries for at least four months and will have their insurance premiums paid for six months, the company said.
The financial crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic had nothing to do with the decision, LM Wind Power said.
“We understand that this is a difficult time to announce this decision and are taking a number of steps to provide additional support for our employees during this time,” the company said, citing the continued payment of salaries and insurance premiums.
The closing of LM largely brings an end to the highly touted but little realized blossoming of the wind industry in Arkansas.
“There are no other large manufacturing companies in Arkansas for the wind industry,” a spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission said Tuesday. “It’s been a volatile industry for many years now, due to the changing commitments at the federal level for the production tax credits.”
“We’ve seen declining demands for both blades but especially a significant drop in demand for the shorter blades,” the spokesman said. “The broader trend in renewable energy is toward even larger blades [more than 200 feet] because they’re more powerful and more efficient.”
LM’s plant in Grand Forks, N.D., will continue production, according to the company.
The Little Rock plant opened amid much fanfare in 2008 as LM Glasfiber, then owned by a company in Denmark. Its $150 million investment would produce some 1,100 to 1,400 jobs over five years, the company said. State and city officials said it was the city’s largest industrial development investment at the time.
The administration of Gov. Mike Beebe attracted LM Glasfiber to Little Rock with a round of financial incentives that included $6.9 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund and more than $8 million in “economic infrastructure fund” grants from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. The commission also gave the company $3,500 per worker for training.
The General Assembly in 2007 also passed legislation giving the company a 27-year exemption from the state corporate income tax.
By October 2008, the company had 630 employees at its temporary quarters on Interstate 30 in southwest Little Rock, about 130 more employees than it expected to have at the time, company officials said.
LM Glasfiber was renamed LM Wind Power in 2010 and was bought by GE Renewable Energy in 2016.
Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette