LM Wind Power, a unit of GE Renewable Energy, is increasing its footprint at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East. The company is establishing a U.S. technology center where it will develop and test new techniques for designing and building wind turbine blades.
LM Wind Power plans to hire up to 100 local employees by 2021, on top of its roughly 50 employees who now work at the facility. The work pays an average salary of $52,000, plus benefits.
The center, which includes 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 20,000 square feet of office space, will give LM Wind Power a local presence serving North America, one of the world’s largest wind-power markets.
“The idea of building lighter, stronger, longer blades requires a lot of engineering and expertise, and we were able to bring that together and foster that here on the NASA campus,” Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson said in an interview.
The announcement comes eight years after former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration trumpeted its role in luring Blade Dynamics, a British-based company that assembled parts for wind turbines.
Blade Dynamics boasted that it would create 600 new jobs paying $48,000 a year on average, but those heady promises never materialized. Instead, the company was acquired by GE in 2015.
Last year, GE Renewable Energy also acquired Denmark-based LM Wind Power, a leading supplier of blades to the global wind power industry, and later merged it with Blade Dynamics.
State and company officials, including LM Wind Power CEO Duncan Berry, announced the expansion Thursday at Michoud, where roughly 3,500 people work in the aerospace and advanced manufacturing sectors.
“The NASA campus offers world-class logistical support, including port facilities that enable the company to move large equipment into and out of our expanded research facility,” Berry said.
The company plans to work with local universities and community colleges to develop training programs to help fill the various engineering and manufacturing jobs.
"The expansion of LM Wind Power further underscores our region’s opportunity in the advanced manufacturing sector,” said Michael Hecht, president and CEO of GNO Inc., a regional economic development group. “The Michoud Assembly Facility has been a key anchor in attracting and expanding advanced manufacturing companies in the greater New Orleans region.”
The American Wind Energy Association estimates that wind farms now under construction or in advanced development total 33,449 megawatts, a 40 percent increase over 2017. The U.S. has nearly 90,000 megawatts of wind capacity, generated by more than 54,000 wind turbines, according to the trade association.
LM Wind Power, which designs and manufactures rotor blades for wind turbines, has blade factories in Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, India, Poland, Spain, France, Turkey and the United States. The company has produced more than 205,000 turbine blades since 1978.
To land the Michoud project, the state offered LM Wind Power the services of its FastStart workforce training program.
The company also is likely to participate in the state’s Quality Jobs Program, which provides a cash rebate of up to 6 percent of a company's annual payroll for up to a decade for new positions that pay at least $18 per hour, and the Industrial Tax Exemption Program, which allows manufacturers to avoid paying local property taxes for up to a decade on new plants and expansions.