Vestas cuts to have little impact in Colorado
Proposed job cuts by wind-turbine maker Vestas are expected to have little immediate impact in Colorado, where the governor and economic development groups made it a showcase for the state's "New Energy Economy" focusing on renewable energy products.
However, that could change if Congress fails to extend federal tax breaks, putting another 1,600 U.S. jobs at risk. There was no estimate available on the number of jobs that could be affected in Colorado.
The company announced Thursday it will lay off about 2,300 employees, mainly in Denmark, because of a market downturn caused by the financial crisis. That includes 1,300 employees in Denmark; 450 in Spain, Italy, Germany and Sweden, 400 in China and 182 in the United States.
Last year, Vestas laid off 3,000 workers after posting a 24 percent drop in profits in the third quarter.
The company is preparing for further cuts if the U.S. doesn't extend its Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, which expires at the end of 2012. In 2010, Vestas was awarded about $51 million in federal tax credits in the U.S.
Brighton spokeswoman Kristen Chernosky said Thursday that the company's announcement is expected to have little impact on her community. Vestas has invested more than $300 million in Brighton and $1 billion total in Colorado. One Brighton plant assembles nacelles, which house the turbine, and another builds 180-foot-long blades. A plant in Pueblo builds towers for the turbines and a plant in Windsor manufactures 144-foot and 161-foot blades.
In 2008, Colorado state and local government entities provided $2.2 million in incentives to attract the $95 million Vestas Blades plant in Windsor, according to KMGH-TV. The state contributed $928,000 -- or about $2,000 for each new job created -- and local government and private entities provided another $1.3 million.
A spokeswoman for Vestas and state economic development officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.
In 2010, Vestas said it had created more than 1,000 new jobs in Colorado.
During his four years in office, former Gov. Bill Ritter signed more than 60 pieces of clean-energy legislation, including new laws to increase the requirement that utilities must get 20 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2020 to 30 percent. Utilities said they would have to rely heavily on wind power to reach those goals.
Ritter, who decided not to run for re-election, said his new energy economy programs created "tens of thousands" of new jobs, though no one can say exactly how many. Studies vary widely, from 20,000 to 90,000 over the next decade. Opponents were skeptical, saying those jobs came at a huge price requiring specialized training and subsidies that will be borne by rate payers and taxpayers.
After leaving office last year, Ritter was named director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University. The new job involves building partnerships around finding clean energy solutions, creating jobs and promoting new technologies that will fuel long-term, sustainable economic growth.
Last year, Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ritter's successor, adopted the "New Energy Economy" as part of his economic plan and promised to continue supporting renewable energy to diversify the state's economy.