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Newton gets wind turbine plant

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, July 15, 2011, at 4:33 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, July 16, 2011, at 6:59 a.m.

NEWTON — Colorado-based New Millennium Wind Energy, a builder wind turbines, has chosen the Kansas Logistics Park in Newton for its first manufacturing facility, Gov. Sam Brownback announced Friday afternoon during a press conference in Newton.

The firm, which will employ 70 people initially with plans to grow to 350 soon, will break ground within 60 days on the first phase of a facility that will exceed 200,000 square feet, company CEO Drew Thacker said.

Its product is an innovative point-of-use turbine that targets major facilities such as office buildings, casinos, stadiums and large retailers. The turbines will be 35 by 28 feet and will be largely made of composites, Thacker said. The new company will utilize the composites and crash dynamics expertise of the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University. NIAR head John Tomblin is on the New Millennium board.

Initial products will include 20- and 60-kilowatt turbines, named Dorothy and Toto.

Thacker said after the announcement that the turbine location at the user, or point of use, minimizes loss of energy to transmission systems and conceivably could generate more energy than the facility can use, allowing sale back to major energy providers.

"New Millennium represents an innovative company making exciting products in an expanding industry for the state," Brownback said. "Kansas is beautifully positioned to create new good-paying jobs through alternative energy. This is more proof that Kansas can compete and win in the global marketplace."

Brownback praised the efforts of Newton and Harvey County officials, along with Harvey County economic development chief Mickey Fornaro-Dean, who led the effort to put the deal together.

"You folks have done an outstanding job of putting together a project that's extremely exciting. It's obvious to me something special is happening in the Kansas wind corridor — Wichita, Newton, Hutchinson and Salina," Brownback said. "This is another innovative company making exciting innovations in an expanding industry in this state. Not only does Kansas rank highly in our ability to generate power from wind, we're also growing our wind supplier manufacturing base."

Thacker said the availability of skilled aerospace-oriented labor and logistics — the logistics park's proximity to rail, highway and air shipping — clinched the deal for Newton.

"If you don't have good skilled labor, this is not the kind of product you want to bring into an area," he said. "Your aircraft workers and skilled assembly are number one. Number two is logistics, in the heart of the country and the wind area."

The facility received state economic development incentives, tied to job creation. Newton and Harvey County provided tax abatements.

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