Vestas’ workforce to rise to 2,000 in Colorado

Danish wind turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems A/S (OMX: VWS) will have more than 2,000 employees by the end of the year, the most the company has ever employed statewide.

Vestas plans to hire more than 850 people at its four factories in Colorado this year after securing orders for nearly 900 turbines in 2013.

Vestas already has filled about 400 positions at its Colorado blade and nacelle factories and has received more than 3,200 applications overall. About 450 additional factory positions are expected to be filled this year.

Of the more than 850 workers hired this year, the company’s blade factories in Windsor and Brighton will employ more than 600 additional workers, while the nacelle factory in Brighton will employ 150 more employees, Vestas spokesman Andrew Longeteig said. Most of the hiring in Windsor will take place during the first half of the year while hiring in Brighton will take place during the second half.

Vestas’ Pueblo tower factory will employ 80 more people this year after the company added 300 employees there last year. Vestas employs more than 1,450 people in Colorado, most of whom work at its manufacturing facilities. Vestas also employs people in service and maintenance at two wind farms, as well as at a tools warehouse in Denver.

In 2012, Vestas reached its former peak in Colorado employment with a total of nearly 1,800 employees. But the company struggled when Congress waited until the beginning of 2013 to renew the production tax and had to lay off hundreds of workers.

The new positions are temporary with the opportunity to be hired as regular Vestas employees, Vestas said. Since late 2013, Vestas has already converted more than 60 people to regular employees at the Brighton blade factory. Employees hired directly by Vestas receive a benefits plan that includes health care, vacation and sick time, as well as a 401(k) with an employer match.

Based on orders received in 2013, Vestas has the potential for an additional 2.6 gigawatts of turbine sales in the United States and Canada. Along with fulfilling regional orders, Vestas is exporting blades, towers and nacelles from Colorado to projects in Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay.

“We are going to be extremely busy making blades, nacelles and towers this year through at least 2015,´ said Chris Brown, President of Vestas’ sales and service division in the United States and Canada, in a statement.

In 2011 and 2012, a downturn in the U.S. wind industry struck Vestas and other renewable-energy companies. Vestas closed a research and development facility in Louisville and laid off employees at its factories.

Vestas, however, earned its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2013 since 2011, and the company expects strong earnings in 2014.

Nationwide, the wind industry has more than 550 factories in 44 states. Turbine components produced domestically and installed in the U.S. have grown from about 25 percent in 2005 to more than 70 percent in 2013, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

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