Wind power firm buys land in Newton

The Wichita metropolitan area is a step closer to adding another wind power manufacturer.

Tindall Corp., the first tenant in Newton's Kansas Logistics Park, closed Tuesday on approximately 230 acres of property on the city's southeast side, purchased from the city of Newton and Harvey County. In the next few weeks, Tindall officials will visit Newton to update city and county commissioners on the project.

"We're happy to report that Tindall has achieved some major milestones with their new product and are moving ahead with their plans in Newton," Newton Mayor Willis Heck said in a statement. "We are eager to welcome them to our community."

Dave Kerr, who led the drive to land Siemens' wind turbine nacelle plant in Hutchinson as president of the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber, said Tindall will be an asset to the region's effort to establish itself as a wind energy manufacturing hub.

"It's certainly a good thing to draw attention to the area," said Kerr, the former Kansas Senate president. "Tindall, while their product is new to the wind industry, they're a large and successful company. Having them in the area is a definite positive."

Newton City Manager Randy Riggs echoed Kerr's thoughts.

"When you look at the map and where Hutchinson, Newton, Wichita, McPherson all are in that big diamond, a lot of good things have the potential to develop here," he said.

In December 2009, the Spartanburg, S.C.-based company announced plans to build a new facility in Newton to manufacture concrete bases for the turbines, a product that recently obtained professional certification for wind turbine use. Plans call for a 150,000- to 200,000-square-foot facility with a total capital investment of about $66 million.

Tindall officials are now working on a prototype at their Atlanta facility. Once it is complete, they will begin final building plans and site layout in Newton. The company has named current employee Tony Smith as plant manager for the Newton facility.

"They're creating a whole new product here, so the certification is very significant for them," Riggs said. "Now, they have to create machinery, equipment and processes to make a product they've never made before."

Tindall is a large privately held pre-cast manufacturing company with facilities throughout the South and Mid-Atlantic region. Its Newton plant will be dedicated exclusively to manufacturing tower bases.

Kerr said wind energy firms are showing increasing interest in Kansas, with Kansas City and Junction City landing manufacturers Nordic Windpower and Denmark-based Jupiter Group, respectively.

More would come, Kerr said, if the U.S. Congress would settle on a sound long-term alternative-energy policy.

"I've been meeting with the people in the industry, and some are hesitant to make the commitment because they're not sure the U.S. will really be committed to a nice amount of alternative energy," Kerr said.

"I can think of two or three projects that would move forward quickly if these companies were really confident in the U.S. energy policy."

The Kansas Logistics Park is near U.S. 50 and two interstates, providing access to two rail carriers as well as the Watco short-line railroads.