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Vestas picks Portland over Colorado for US HQ

UNITED STATES: Vestas, the world's leading wind turbine manufacturer, announced plans Wednesday for keeping its North American headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Vestas new US headquarters building in Portland, Oregon
Vestas new US headquarters building in Portland, Oregon

The Danish company will spend $66million renovating an historic 16,000-square-metre warehouse in Portland’s upscale Pearl District. It will add a 2,000-square-metre roof terrace, along with a roof-mounted solar energy array. Construction will begin in October and Vestas expects to occupy the space in early 2012.

Colorado, home to three Vestas manufacturing plants, was reportedly a primary alternate location for the headquarters, along with Texas and Washington state. Vestas has based its North American operations in Portland since 2002, when it relocated 75 employees from Palm Springs in Southern California.

"We are making a long-term commitment to Portland," Martha Wyrsch, president of Vestas-American Wind Technology, said in a statement. "As a company devoted to wind power, it makes sense for us to be part of a community that so strongly supports clean energy."

The State of Oregon offered Vestas $2.25million in incentives to stay in Portland, while the City of Portland provided an $8 million interest-free loan. Vestas agreed to repay the state $1million if it does not add at least 100 jobs to the 400 workers already on its Portland payrolls. Unemployment in Oregon, at 10.6%, is among the highest in the US.

"We are intent on growing," Wyrsch added. "Our new headquarters gives us the flexibility to accommodate up to 600 employees."

Vestas tapped renowned local real-estate developers Gerding Edlen to transform the vacant structure, built in 1928, into Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification – the US Green Building Council’s highest rating. The move will consolidate Vestas employees from four Portland buildings into the new digs. A Vestas training center with 14 employees will remain near Portland International Airport.

Late last year, Vestas blamed the global economic meltdown when it scrapped an ambitious plan to build a $250 million headquarters on the Portland riverfront. Vestas had kept any subsequent plans quiet until yesterday – the same day the company reported a quarterly loss that resulted in a 23% dip in its stock, which trades on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange.

Vestas employs about 1,200 people across North American and manufactures blades, nacelles and towers in Colorado. It also maintains research-and-development offices in Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin and Massachusetts. The company has sold upwards of 11,000 wind turbines in the US and Canada since 1981 – and more than 40,500 globally since 1979.

The announcement follows yesterday’s second quarter results announcement, which was disappointing for the company. The Vestas revealed a revenue fall of 17%, compared to the same period in 2009, and plans to axe 300 permanent jobs in Denmark.

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