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Siemens Rehiring Wind Energy Workers

Feb. 1, 2013

John Green

Wind Energy  


Siemens Wind Energy this week called back some workers to its Fort Madison , Iowa, turbine blade manufacturing plant and expects to rehire more in coming weeks, company officials said Wednesday.

There are no immediate plans, however, to call back workers to Hutchinson's nacelle assembly plant, said Jim Jones, director of manufacturing for the Americas and interim plant manager in Hutchinson.

The worker recalls are in response to wind projects outside the U.S., according to Siemens spokeswoman Susan Beckman in Iowa.

In November, Siemens landed an order for a large wind farm in Chile.

"Currently, 18 people have been recalled in Fort Madison and we are canvassing our lists for an additional 73 in that same location," Jones stated in an email. "At this point, there are no immediate plans to call back employees at the nacelle assembly facility in Hutchinson. Our existing workforce will be able to manage the projected workload over the next few months. We will review this monthly."

The company laid off 256 employees in Hutchinson and 570 in Iowa near the end of last year. The job cuts left 152 workers at the Hutchinson plant and 220 at Fort Madison.

"We are not planning on using non-employee resources -- contractors -- at this time to ramp up production in Fort Madison or Hutchinson," Jones stated when asked if the addition of employees would include workers hired through temporary employment agencies. "Rather, we are committed to using the callback process to meet our needs."

"However," Jones stated, "contractors are utilized in all of our businesses as a way to effectively manage business fluctuations. The need to supplement our workforce with contractors will depend on the future business situation."

The production ramp-up isn't directly related to the recent passage by Congress of a one-year extension of the Production Tax Credit, but "the PTC extension gives us confidence as we rehire employees," the statement released by Beckman read.

"As projects move forward and we receive new wind-turbine orders sparked by the PTC extension, we will continue to adjust our operations accordingly," she said. However, the effect of the PTC won't be clear until wording in the legislation about which projects qualify for the credit is clarified.

The previous tax credit, which expired in December, required that wind farms had to be operational before the end of 2012 to qualify for the credit. That led to a record year for turbine installations.

Continued uncertainty about the credit's future beyond this year, low natural gas prices and slow energy demand growth, however, "continue to cast a shadow on the short-term future of the U.S. wind power industry," the company statement continued. "Therefore, following the peak in 2012, there will still be a significant dip in demand, even with the PTC renewal."

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: (c) 2013 The Hutchinson News (Hutchinson, Kan.)

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