Tuesday, March 31, 2009From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Suppliers to the auto industry may want to shift their focus to wind components, given incentives for renewable energy included in the federal stimulus package.
Wisconsin has always been a supply-chain state, to the farm industry with implements, then to the auto industry with motors. But the effort to woo the wind-power industry to the state is centered north of Milwaukee, the former machine shop to the world.
The focus on wind is coming from The New North, the economic development initiative of northeastern Wisconsin, home to Tower Tech in Manitowoc, Badger Transport in Clintonville and dozens of other suppliers to the wind industry.
The wind industry had been growing at a record pace year after year until it was hit by the economic slowdown like other businesses, said Jeff Anthony of the American Wind Energy Association.
The wind industry's growth has been something to watch, said Al Johnson, president of Badger Transport, which ships the wind industry's oversized components.
"We do everything," he said. "We do the towers and the blades and the cells."
Johnson's company has been involved in the wind industry since 1997, and seen it grow from less than one-third of his company's sales to more than 90% today.
"I was involved in it when it was feast or famine for quite a number of years."
Across northeastern Wisconsin, 95 companies are supplying the wind industry, creating an economic cluster that the region seeks to capitalize on.
"When we focus on the wind industry, our message is not: 'Come to northeast Wisconsin and build your wind farm,' but rather: 'Come to northeast Wisconsin if you are involved with the supply-chain side of the wind industry,' " said Josh Morby, spokesman for The New North.