Wind Equipment: Creating Jobs Along the Lake Erie Shore

August 16, 2012

Located about 40 miles south of Detroit on the banks of Lake Erie, the city of Monroe, Michigan, has a strong history in American manufacturing. In 1834, the first paper mill rose up along the River Raisin. From there, Monroe became a manufacturing center for paper products, from cardboard boxes to newsprint to cereal cartons. Over the next century, as the community grew, so did this manufacturing hub, which included tire, furniture and automobile makers. By the 1940s, however, manufacturing had left the area and the site remained a landfill until the 1970s. With the support of the state and a federal program on brownfield redevelopment, the area has made a phenomenal comeback.

Today, the docks of Lake Erie look a bit different, hosting some of the country’s most innovative manufacturing companies. Among these, Ventower Industries is fabricating and supplying utility-scale wind turbine towers for projects throughout the Great Lakes and Northeast regions. Since opening its 115,000 square foot Monroe facility last summer, Ventower has grown to 53 employees and expects to complete its 15th tower by this fall. With the help of $2.5 million in advanced manufacturing tax credits, the company has been able to complete this $25 million project, bringing new economic opportunities to the community and boosting American manufacturing strength.

In fact, the company has partnered with Monroe County Community College to train and educate the next generation of wind industry workers, including welders. Through the support of this partnership and others within Michigan, Ventower has hired new workers for its Monroe plant.

The plant’s unique location gives it direct dock access to Lake Erie along with the flexibility to ship by water, rail, and truck. By the end of 2011, the Great Lakes region hosted more than 10 gigawatts (GW) of cumulative wind power capacity, enough to power about 2.5 million homes. In Michigan alone, over 200 megawatts of new wind power capacity was added last year. According to industry estimates, Michigan’s wind industry supported 3,000 to 4,000 jobs in 2010.

Earlier this week, the Energy Department released its annual 2011 Wind Technologies Market Report, which found that the percentage of wind equipment made in America has increased dramatically over the past few years. Nearly 70 percent of the equipment installed at U.S. wind farms last year – including wind turbine towers – is now from domestic manufacturers like Ventower, doubling from 35 percent in 2005. Technical innovation is also allowing for larger wind turbines with longer, lighter blades – driving continued cost reduction and efficiency gains in the U.S. wind industry.

As President Obama has made clear, clean, renewable wind energy is a critical part of an all-of-the-above energy strategy that aims to develop more secure, domestic energy sources, while strengthening American manufacturing. Now is not the time to turn our backs on this tremendous growth, which is why the Administration has called for an extension of successful clean energy tax credits to ensure we continue to manufacture the clean energy technologies of the future.

Learn more about the outlook for wind energy in America by checking out our blog post: A Banner Year for the U.S. Wind Industry.