Green jobs were the toast of Oregon in April 2002 when Gov. John Kitzhaber, Sen. Gordon Smith and Portland Mayor Vera Katz joined executives from Vestas, the world’s largest wind power manufacturer, to announce the construction of a new factory in Portland that would create more than 1,000 jobs by 2004.
|The Danish wind kings are now promising 1,000 jobs by 2011. Sound familiar?
PORTLAND Green jobs were the toast of Oregon in April 2002 when Gov. John Kitzhaber, Sen. Gordon Smith and Portland Mayor Vera Katz joined executives from Vestas, the world’s largest wind power manufacturer, to announce the construction of a new factory in Portland that would create more than 1,000 jobs by 2004.
This was welcome news at a time when Oregon’s unemployment rate of 8.1% was highest in the nation, and it appeared on the front page of the Portland Tribune the following day, with the headline “City gets a breath of fresh air: jobs.” A similar story made the cover of the Oregonian.
Like the Tonkin Gulf incident, it never happened.
When federal subsidies hit a snag, Vestas backed away from its Portland manufacturing plans, later building in Colorado, where it plans to employ up to 2,000 people by 2010. Oregon lost out again last year when Vestas built an R & D center in Texas. Each of these deals involved substantial incentives.
Still, Oregon wasn’t completely jilted. Vestas has established its headquarters in Portland with more than 300 white-collar jobs. Now the Danish wind kings are planning a super-green building in Portland. But times are tight in the wind business. After growing by more than 30% in 2007 and 2008, global wind installations are expected to drop by 20% in 2009.
To expand in the face of that headwind, Vestas will need extraordinary government support — loans, incentives, grants, possibly even bonding support from the state. An ambitious package of incentives is under construction, with details sure to stir up debate in Portland and Salem as the legislative session unfolds.
A design team from Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects in Portland is sketching out plans for 600,000 square feet of LEED platinum-certified office space with solar power, green roofs and efficient energy systems. The company is promising to employ up to 1,000 people in Portland by 2011.
Vestas senior vice president Roby Roberts says the decision to build in Portland is by no means final. “We have to put all the numbers on the table and make sure they add up and that this thing makes sense,” he says. “We don’t know what the capital markets are going to look like. And we don’t know what the city and the state are willing to contribute.” BEN JACKLET
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