New North Dakota Factory to Produce Wind Towers, Jobs

April 19, 2010

One month after Bobcat Co.’s machine manufacturing plant closed a majority of its operations in the Northern Plains Commerce Centre, Schuff Steel Co. announced it was exploring the construction of a new wind tower in the same industrial park. The facility would employ about 300 people and manufacture large-scale wind towers for 2- to 5-megawatt farms.

Sluggish sales and a weak economy forced Bobcat to close its doors late last year. It relocated a majority of the 475 jobs to its Gwinner plant in southeastern North Dakota. Laid-off workers were given the chance to relocate, but a majority of those workers stayed behind in Bismarck.

“This is outstanding opportunity for the workforce here,” says Russ Staiger, executive director of the Bismarck Mandan Development Association, the nonprofit working closely with the Arizona steel fabricator. “Schuff will be looking for a lot of the same skill sets: welders, machinists and other manufacturer-related jobs.”

No specific dates have been announced, but Russ says the plant is a “work of art that keeps moving forward,” with construction targeted for summer.

Schuff Steel, which received a $7 million federal tax credit under the Recovery Act Section 48C Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit, plans to manufacture about 300 wind towers a year at the 200,000-square-foot facility.

North Dakota’s potential for generating wind power made it an attractive location for Schuff.  The state generates enough wind energy to power 210,000 homes a year (700 megawatts), but according to the American Wind Energy Association, it is capable of producing almost 140,000 MW.

“After researching the renewable energy business in general, and specifically wind energy, we are convinced that we are seeing the emergence of a new industry,” said Dennis Randall, executive vice president of Schuff's Midwest Division, in a news release. “We also feel that this new venture would require construction of a dedicated plant in close proximity to developing markets.”