Job Losses Feared in Windsor if Federal Tax Credit Isn’t Extended
Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas has threatened to cut up to 1,600 U.S. manufacturing jobs if Congress fails to extend a wind tax credit that expires at the end of this year. KUNC’s Brian Larson spoke with Northern Colorado Business Report Publisher Jeff Nuttall about that would mean for the town of Windsor if Vestas follows through on its threat.
Larson: Vestas has a large presence in Colorado. The company opened its north American headquarters in Windsor back in 2008. 750 people are employed at the blade facility but Jeff that’s just the tip of the iceberg where employment numbers are concerned.
Nuttall: In all, Vestas employs 1,800 people statewide. They also have two other factories, one in Brighton and in Pueblo, and, last we heard, plans are still on to open a fourth plant in Brighton. As you might imagine, the company has spent a lot of money on these plants, close to $1 billion in construction costs alone.
Larson: Which is the main reason why Vestas wants this wind tax credit to continue. Do we know just how much benefit they have received from the credit so far?
Nuttall: Vestas customers benefit from the wind tax credit directly. Vestas itself became eligible for $51 million in other federal tax credits in 2010. Because of its Windsor plant, the company received another $4 million in rebates, grants and job-training funds from local and state agencies. To help attract the plant, the town of Windsor even granted the company a 50% property tax credit lasting until 2018.
Larson: The federal tax credit expires at the end of the year. Are we going to have to wait that long?
Nuttall: Although Congress typically renews these kinds of tax credits at the end of the year, Vestas hopes that they are extended immediately. That’s because the company makes turbines from orders placed a year in advance. Earlier this week, a group of Colorado lawmakers wrote a letter to leaders in Congress in hopes of moving things forward quickly. Now everyone’s in wait-and-see mode.
Larson: If we talk about worst the worst-case scenario – what happens if Congress fails to extend the tax credit? Would we see the layoffs that Vestas is talking about?
Nuttall: Vestas has been very upfront about this. It already has announced cuts of more than 2,300 jobs world-wide and more than 180 are planned in the United States. Most people are familiar with the hundreds of jobs that Kodak has lost over the years at its Windsor location. Residents certainly have a keen memory of that and they say that those job cuts still affect the town today. Any more job loss certainly would impact everything from the real estate industry to town services to retailers.
Larson: You said everyone is in wait and see mode. What’s going on in Windsor? Is the town doing anything to prepare?
Nuttall: People at churches and food banks say they are prepared for the worst. The Weld Food Bank already saw a record-setting month in December in the amount of food it distributed. Officials there say they prepare for situations like these all year long. Sunrise Community Health, which runs health clinics in Weld and Larimer counties, has seen a rise in unemployed patients and it could see more if Vestas workers lose their benefits. The town of Windsor’s business development manager also is watching the situation closely and has voiced the town’s concerns to the state.
Larson: Jeff is the publisher of the Northern Colorado Business Report.