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Wind energy company to lay off workers at SD plant

A company that makes and repairs wind turbine blades said Wednesday it is laying off about one-third of the work force at its plant in the eastern South Dakota town of Howard.

Knight & Carver Wind Group Inc. is laying off 16 of the Howard plant’s 55 workers this week, and the firm might temporarily close the plant in about a month, said Gary Kanaby, a company vice president in San Diego.


The company, which has operated in Howard for about three years, is having to slow down production to deal with a lull in the wind energy industry. More layoffs could be possible if the situation doesn’t improve, Kanaby said.

“We are committed to this community and we’re not picking up our bags and leaving,” he said. “It just looks like we’re probably are going to close it for a little while.”

Wind industry employment remained steady in 2009 with about 85,000 U.S. workers, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Due to the many turbines on the market in 2008 and the credit crisis, 1,500 manufacturing jobs were lost during the year, the association said.
Knight & Carver builds blades for medium sized wind turbines, which range in output from 100 kilowatts to 1 megawatt and are commonly by hog farms, small businesses, schools and universities.

The 26,000-square-foot plant built on a 7.2-acre in Howard is in the process of fulfilling an existing blade order, but other turbine manufacturers are holding off on future orders because of either turbine development issues or the general market slowdown.

“We shipped all these blades to Iowa, but that contract’s over and the next one isn’t connected, so to speak,” he said.
“Each company isn’t quite ready to place that big order.”

Kanaby says the Howard shutdown could last between two months and six months.

Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.