Gone with the wind? UPDATE
LITTLE ROCK — Could the slowing economy be calming the sails of Arkansas’ soaring windmill blade manufacturing business?
Windmill blade manufacturer LM Glasfiber announces today it is laying off more than 150 workers in Little Rock because the national credit crunch is putting some of its customers in a bind. The company says it idle its plant on Scott Hamilton Drive in Little Rock and shift about 60 workers to its facility at the Port of Little Rock to prepare for a 24-hour, 7-days a week operation there.
LM Glasfiber says it will maintain some 350 workers in the capital city.
Gov. Mike Beebe’s office already had its ear to the wind as word came from West Fargo, N.D., over the weekend that wind tower manufacturer DMI Industries is trimming its work force, just six months after announcing a major expansion.
The company cites production demands for 2009 it says are significantly lower than projected.
“We’ve been hearing, even before this (North Dakota) announcement, that the wind industry is seeing some slowdown with the rest of the economy,” says Beebe spokesman Matt DeCample. “We don’t know what the extent of the impact in Arkansas will be.”
Just last month, Beebe hinted Arkansas could be in line for a fourth windmill manufacturing operation, joining LM Glasfiber and two other companies that have announced plans to begin operations, one each in Little Rock and Jonesboro. Together, those plants were expected to employ more than 2,100 workers.
Polymarin Composites executive Frank Epps says the company pushed back hiring of senior management in Little Rock during the fourth quarter of last year, in part because of the souring economy. That hiring is taking place now, which he says may push back the roll-out of the first blades this year by several months.
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