Missouri manufacturer grows with the wind energy

Will PTC uncertainty kill this American success story? Able Manufacturing is creating new jobs and economic opportunity in Joplin, Missouri, and this success story can be replicated all across the U.S. with stable tax policy.

In the latest segment of WindTV, the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) vehicle to highlight how wind turbines works for America, Able CEO Jim Schwarz tells of how his wind energy supply chain manufacturing company went from zero employees in 2008 to 25, as well as of plans for adding another 10 employees to meet demand in what is expected to be a big year for wind energy development.

Able Manufacturing, a Missouri company that produces composite parts for wind turbine nacelles and blades, has doubled its wind energy sales every year since 2008, the year it got into the business. Schwarz’s company is emblematic of what industry data has shown to be a trend for the last several years: the wind energy supply chain continues to grow deeper and farther-reaching roots across America. Wind power manufacturing can be found in every part of the nation; the industry supported jobs in every state in the U.S. in 2011. Wind power supports 75,000 American jobs today and is on track to support 500,000 American jobs by 2030.

But, with the PTC set to expire at the end of 2012, question marks loom for the wind power industry and tens of thousands of American jobs. Able Manufacturing can already feel its section of that chain rattling with the uncertainty of a federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) that’s set to expire at the end of the year. "We have orders through about August," says Schwarz. "But the orders in September and October are near zero, or none."

The PTC is wind power’s primary policy driver. A recent study found that extending the PTC will allow the wind turbines industry to grow to 100,000 jobs in just four years, while an expiration will kill 37,000 jobs. Wind powers as many as 1,000 Missouri jobs at more than seven wind power manufacturing facilities across the state. Missouri wind farms, meanwhile, provide a second cash crop to the state’s farmers and a vital source of support for rural communities in the form of more than $1.3 million a year in land lease payments and $2.6 million in annual property tax payments.

"The story of Able Manufacturing shows what is at stake as Congress considers an extension of the Product Tax Credit," said AWEA CEO Denise Bode. "As Jim Schwarz explains, time is of the essence. Businesses need policy certainty and hard-working Americans need the certainty of their paychecks."

To be sure, those paychecks of Missourians and workers across America hang in the balance. After hiring workers to meet demand this year, "We’re going to see that uncertainty, and then [business is] going to drop back down for us," says Schwarz, referencing the blank order sheets for the fall. "What do you do with those workers? How do you rearrange for them?"

WindTV is a showcase of video profiles of Americans whose lives have been positively impacted by the wind energy industry. The site, located at www.awea.org/windtv, features a different video profile each week.