Blade Dynamics will begin manufacturing wind turbines blades in New Orleans, La.

In what Gov. Bobby Jindal called "a great win for the New Orleans area" and Mayor Mitch Landrieu termed an "incredibly exciting announcement," officials announced Tuesday that a British wind power company will begin manufacturing wind turbine blades and components in part of the rapidly emptying Michoud Assembly Facility in eastern New Orleans.

Blade Dynamics Ltd., a 3-year-old company based on the Isle of Wight off the southern coast of England, designs and manufactures advanced blades designed to increase the efficiency and performance of very high power wind turbines.

The wind energy company has committed to create 600 new jobs by 2015 at an average annual salary of $48,000, plus benefits, and to make a capital investment of about $13 million.

Company co-founder and sales director Theo Botha said about 95 percent of the jobs will be filled by local people. He said the company will have a presence at Michoud almost immediately but refused to say how soon manufacturing will begin.

Officials said they expect the operation will also generate about 970 new indirect jobs as the company and its employees spend money in the local economy.

The state has been seeking new tenants for Michoud, where Lockheed Martin is ending the production of external fuel tanks for the space shuttle program. At the height of the shuttle program in the 1980s, about 5,000 people worked at Michoud. More recently, it downsized from about 2,600 employees in 2009 to about 1,000 today.

The New Orleans area also was stunned by the recent announcement that defense giant Northrop Grumman will close its Avondale shipyard by 2013. About 5,000 people work there.

Jindal predicted that Tuesday’s announcement "will be the first of several" about high-tech companies moving into Michoud.

State sweetens the deal

He said the state offered Blade Dynamics a "competitive state incentive package" to help lure it to Louisiana.

The state’s economic development department said Blade Dynamics was offered performance-based financial assistance of $5.4 million to offset lease costs at Michoud and $6 million to offset equipment purchases, plus money to cover projected relocation costs. The state also will provide customized employee recruitment, screening, training development and training delivery services. The total incentive package could amount to $30 million.

Jindal said the Blade Dynamics project is expected to result in $36 million in new state tax revenue and $24 million in new local tax revenue during the next 10 years.

Blade Dynamics received investment financing for the project from Dow Venture Capital, part of Dow Chemical Co., and American Superconductor Corp.

American Superconductor, a power technologies company based in Devens, Mass., announced Tuesday that it has acquired 25 percent of Blade Dynamics for $8 million.

Dow Venture Capital, which invests in promising start-up companies in North America, Europe and Asia, also made a minority equity investment in Blade Dynamics.

Botha said Blade Dynamics was attracted to the Michoud site by the presence of a "willing, dedicated and skilled workforce" and by the recruiting efforts of Jindal and the state’s economic development staff.

He said the local operation "will manufacture the world’s most advanced wind turbine blades."

Landing ‘green’ business

Jindal said the recruiting of Blade Dynamics "marks a significant step forward for Louisiana into renewable energy and green manufacturing that will help us continue to grow our economy."

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret added: "This is an exciting win for Louisiana not only because of the new, high-paying jobs it will bring, but also because Blade Dynamics is in one of our top new target growth industries for Louisiana: green manufacturing."

The 832-acre Michoud site is one of the largest industrial campuses in the world, with more than 2 million square feet of manufacturing space. With its role in the space program winding down, NASA, the state and Jacobs Technology Inc. have been collaborating to attract new manufacturing operations and other tenants. More than 1 million square feet of space is available for additional high-tech, private-sector tenants.

Blade Dynamics was founded in 2007 with the purpose of improving wind turbine rotor performance to lower the cost of wind energy. Its product development efforts center on creating composite structures that allow rotors to be lighter and improve aerodynamics.

American Superconductor founder and CEO Gregory Yurek said: "The design and manufacturing processes for wind turbine blades have remained fundamentally unchanged for 20 years. Today, however, the market is migrating to higher wind turbine power ratings. Onshore wind turbines now exceed two megawatts in many locations, and offshore wind farm developers are increasingly seeking wind turbines with power ratings exceeding five megawatts. Blade Dynamics presents us, and the entire wind industry, with a game-changing wind turbine blade technology that enhances performance and reduces weight and cost for high-power wind turbines."

By Bruce Eggler,