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Hillsborough tries to lure wind turbine maker

TAMPA — Looking for the gold in green, Hills­borough County is trying to lure a wind turbine manufacturer that would invest in a roughly $500-million expansion.

Sweetening the pot with public money, county officials are putting together a package of economic incentives from the county, state and possibly the Tampa Port Authority. If the deal goes through, the company would pledge to create about 550 high-paying jobs, said Hillsborough Commissioner Brian Blair.

"We're all doing everything possible to bring this company here because it would be a tremendous opportunity for our community," Blair said. "How often can you bring in something that's good for the environment, that's going to create good jobs and help our economy tremendously?"

It's unclear how far along the county is in the negotiations. Companies typically consider several cities when looking to expand, with communities across the country actively courting green jobs.

Blair declined to discuss specific incentives being considered. And he said that he is prevented by state law from disclosing the name of the company but that it is a Japanese manufacturer of wind turbines that generate electricity.

At least one company fits that description.

Mitsubishi Power Systems just completed an expansion in Orlando and is looking to extend its manufacturing capacity in North America. The company established its Lake Mary headquarters in 2001. Tampa was originally in the running for those facilities, but lost out when Mitsubishi lighted on a shuttered turbine factory near Orlando, according to Site Selection, an economic development trade publication.

Mitsubishi Power Systems, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, later opened a service center in Orlando and this summer completed a $64.5-million plant that makes turbine parts.

Mitsubishi is a leading supplier in the United States of wind turbines that range in size from 250 kilowatts to 2.4-megawatts, according to its Web site. Earlier this month, Mitsubishi outlined its strategy in its annual report, saying it would invest in "expanded production to respond quickly to the rapidly growing market."

They are not the only such companies expanding.

Since mid 2007, wind-related manufacturers have opened, expanded or announced at least 41 facilities all over the country, adding 9,000 jobs, said Julie Clendenin, spokeswoman for the American Wind Energy Association. The wind industry employs nearly 50,000 people in the United States, she said.

A representative of Mitsubishi Power Systems could not be reached for comment.

Gene Gray, economic development director for Hillsborough County, said he could not discuss any prospective incentive deals.

"State statute does not allow me to discuss economic development projects where companies have requested confidentiality," Gray said.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387. Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or (813) 225-3117.

Hillsborough tries to lure wind turbine maker 08/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, August 29, 2008 4:23pm]
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