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Wednesday, 04 April 2012 12:41

WindTronics pulls production from Windsor to GR

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MUSKEGON — Citing a broken promise by the Ontario government, West Michigan-based WindTronics Inc. has closed its Canadian plant and will consolidate manufacturing operations in Grand Rapids.

Reg Adams, president of WindTronics, told MiBiz the Ontario province’s feed-in tariff for small wind turbines lured the company to open the Windsor-based facility in 2009. Three years later, the province has yet to formalize its policy, Adams said.

While Ontario has implemented a favorable solar policy, its delay in creating the wind tariff meant the company’s operations there were no longer feasible, he said. Faced with that challenge, management opted to consolidate production at Grand Rapids-based Altronics Energy LLC, he said.

Altronics had been manufacturing parts for the turbine already, as well as performing some assembly.

“We cannot have a final assembly there and manufacturing in Grand Rapids both if they’re not open to us,” Adams told MiBiz.

The Windsor Star reported on March 29 that the plant closing put 20 people out of a job and left the Ontario government out of the $2.7 million it gave the company as an incentive to set up operations in the province after the company promised to create some 200 jobs. Adams told the Star that his company had invested $20 million to open the Windsor plant, which employed 50 people at its peak.

An official with the provincial Ministry of Energy said the government would look to find a way to recover the grant funds. The news report said the government looked into a small wind feed-in tariff, but decided not to pursue it because the cost-benefit did not prove worthwhile.

A follow-up report in the Star on April 3 noted that two WindTronics suppliers claim they’re still owed about $375,000 by the company. Adams told the Star that WindTronics planned to make good on its debts and that the company will still need its vendors to supply the Grand Rapids operation.

Ontario’s loss could be West Michigan’s gain.

Altronics, a separate company from WindTronics but a strategic partner, stands to double its more than 20-person workforce as the consolidation will add another 20-30 jobs in Grand Rapids, Adams said.

Altronics is working with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., Adams said, “to evaluate what the best option is. The long term is still up in the air.”

In 2009, the MEDC offered WindTronics a $3.7 million state tax credit to open the plant in Michigan, but the company chose Ontario’s offer instead.

Imad Mahawili, former executive director of the Grand Valley State University Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center, invented the WindTronics turbine design, which is gearless and generates energy at the tip of the blade. The product is currently offered under the Honeywell brand in North America.

Adams refused to disclose sales numbers, but said the turbine was available in 40 countries. The company hopes to add another 12 countries by summer, he added. As global demand increases, he said he expects WindTronics to open manufacturing plants close to the demand centers, likely in India and China.

Read 3242 times Last modified on Saturday, 11 August 2012 10:14

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