A contingent from Wichita and Kansas is going recruiting later this month, spending a week in Germany courting wind energy businesses.
The group, headed by Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer and state economic development officials, will attend a trade show and meet with five German wind energy manufacturers Sept. 21 through 27.
The message is simple, Brewer said: Come to central Kansas and build your wind turbine parts.
"What better place to build these products than here?" Brewer asked. "We have the right team going to Germany to get something done, so we can return home with the Germans feeling good about doing business with us."
The privately financed trip — no tax money is involved — is at the invitation of Invest in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a German economic development group.
The centerpiece of the trip is the Husum Wind Energy 2010 trade show in Husum, Germany.
Goals include meeting with future partners of Kansas companies like Siemens that are active in the European wind power industry, meeting with suppliers of Kansas wind farm projects and meeting with companies that are interested in building turbines in Kansas.
The group has meetings scheduled with:
* Eikboom, a producer of wind turbine nacelles.
* Nordex, a producer of wind turbines and towers.
* Erndtebrucker Eisenwerk, a producer of large steel wind tower segments.
* E.N.O. Energy, a producer of wind turbines.
* KGW, a producer of wind tower components.
One of the group's key pitches to the companies is "customer base proximity," or the ability to manufacture and build turbines in the center of the U.S. wind energy market, said Marlin Penner, president of NAI John T. Arnold Associates and one of the trip participants.
"We have really a very unique situation here," Penner said. "We are one of the top two states for wind resources. We have a central location in the United States and these pieces are really expensive to ship.
"We have an excellent technological base, specifically in composites, and there's more and more interest in making these turbine blades out of composites.
"And we have a state and city government very open to wind energy. We've got land and facilities."
Patty Koehler, president of JR Custom Metal Products in Wichita, has already landed work building equipment for Siemens, which is erecting a nacelle manufacturing plant in Hutchinson.
Nonetheless, Koehler sees great business potential in wind energy, so she's making the trip with an eye toward getting the Germans to buy into Wichita and Kansas.
"We hope to sell the German companies on the natural resources we have: The transportation, the rail, our great highways, our location, our labor resources... and just how close we are to their customers," she said.
Koehler said wind energy recruitment isn't just about Wichita.
"It's a regional thing," she said. "We're so excited to have Siemens in the community, and in this case I consider Hutchinson the community.
"We should work really hard to support Siemens, and hopefully they'll utilize the resources we have here."