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Chinese wind turbine company visits area

April 24, 2010
By LARRY RINGLER, Special to the Salem News

YOUNGSTOWN - A Chinese company that makes wind turbines visited the Mahoning Valley on Thursday and Friday for a ''very exploratory look'' at the area, a Regional Chamber official said Friday.

''They were information gathering sessions. They were looking in terms of our location, the state of Ohio and proximity to the supply chain,'' Eric Planey, the chamber's vice president for international business attraction, said about the visit.

A representative of the company, which wasn't identified, looked at potential greenfield manufacturing sites throughout the valley, he said.

The company looked at greenfield as opposed to a ''brownfield'' existing industrial building, sites for a factory to make wind turbines. A new building likely is needed because making blades and other parts require ''incredibly high ceilings,'' Planey said.

In addition, the company wants to be as close as possible to its customers and where the wind turbines will be installed, largely due to the cost and logistics of shipping huge components, including the giant blades, he said.

The Lake Erie area has been often mentioned as a place for wind turbines because of the wind that blows across the lake. Wind turbines also are being proposed for the east coat of the United States.

Companies that are looking five to 10 years from now are considering wind turbines that will be about twice as tall as they are now, or as tall as 600 feet, Planey said.

Planey said he got the impression the representative was impressed with the cooperation among business and community leaders. He emphasized nothing is imminent.

The lead came through the office of U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, and wasn't one of the four companies the chamber visited during its November trip to Taiwan and China, he said.

The chamber is actively working with two of the leads it made during its Asian trip, Planey said.

One prospect that's involved with metal alloy products is having so much success with its Japanese plans that it keeps delaying its North America efforts, he said.

Planey called the chamber's communications with the company ''open and numerous,'' saying someone could visit the area in June to get a feel for the area.

Talks with the second prospect have progressed beyond the preliminary phase, but the company is seeking financing, Planey said, adding he doesn't expect anything to materialize before the fall.

The chamber is maintaining talks with the third and fourth Chinese contacts, which are in metals and industrial machinery, he said.



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