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Long awaited stride into the United States -- After three decades of thought Vestas makes its move

Vestas is poised to take its biggest step yet into the US market. Last month, the world's largest turbine maker announced plans to build a 46,000-square-metre headquarters in Portland, Oregon, while adding some 850 white collar workers in a city where it already employs upwards of 300. The Danish company hopes to finalise the deal in the spring and occupy its new waterfront offices by the fourth quarter of 2011.

"Once we've gotten all the pieces in place and we've had our final conversations we'll be able to make the ultimate decision," says Roby Roberts of Vestas. "But it's our intention and desire to move forward with this project and break ground this summer."

Vestas reportedly looked at other US cities, but settled on Portland in large part because of red-carpet treatment from local political leaders, as well as the steady growth of a college-educated workforce in the area. The company continues to negotiate significant tax and financing options with the state of Oregon and the City of Portland, both of which seek to burnish their credibility as pioneers of a green economy by landing a major league player.

inducements

The Oregonian, the state's largest newspaper, reported last month that the state will offer as much as $19 million in cash incentives, with the city putting up an additional $12.5 million. The newspaper noted that $10 million in loans could be forgiven, depending on the level of job creation and investment Vestas brings to the region, along with the firms' willingness to improve local public transport infrastructure and provide for workforce training.

"There is no plan B," Roberts says. "But in the next couple months we've got to get the land set up, we've got to get the design settled, we've got to get the architect and builder in place, we've got to put the financing in place, and we've got to talk to the city and state. So we've got a lot of work to do, but we look forward to getting this done."

Vestas established its US beachhead in Portland in 2002 and currently maintains offices spread across six city buildings. In addition to its makeshift downtown headquarters, the company maintains a regional IT centre, along with a tool warehouse and a training facility. The proposed headquarters would consolidate the company's US administrative operations under one roof and allow for future growth. It is also destined to receive platinum status under the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rankings, the organisation's highest standard.

Last year, Vestas opened a blade factory in Colorado and a research and development hub in Boston, Massachusetts. Three more Colorado factories are planned for this year and next -- a second blade factory, a nacelle assembly plant and a tower manufacturing facility. Another research centre, in Houston, Texas, will open this year.

Roberts declines to give any specific goals for volume of manufacturing in the US, but says Vestas intends to maintain or grow its 2007 US market share of 21-22%. "We like our market share and we're building for that market," he says. Vestas currently employs about 1200 people throughout the US and Canada and could see its payroll reach 4000 within two to three years.

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