Wind-power blade manufacturer Polymarin Composites is making a $16 million investment to create a manufacturing facility in Little Rock, Ark., by refurbishing a former Levi Strauss & Co. distribution center.
``It will be open by the end of the month. In November we will be finishing blades in the factory. We will be going full blast by January or February,'' said Frank Epps, president and chief executive officer of EWT Americas Inc., in a telephone interview.
Polymarin is a subsidiary of Emergya Wind Technologies BV, a Hoorn, Netherlands-based firm that specializes in direct-drive wind turbines.
He said Polymarin makes blades of fiber-reinforced epoxy. The blades made in Arkansas will be about 84½ feet in length. Most of its production is captive to EWT's needs, but it also will sell to other firms.
Epps said Polymarin is in the process of hiring a plant manager and 30-40 senior leadership personnel. The facility could employ 630 within four years, he said.
The company, along with steel nacelles supplier Wind Water Technology, will occupy the same building. Combined they will create more than 800 jobs paying an average wage of $15 an hour in the next four years, according to a news release from the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Renovations have been ongoing. The 303,000-square-foot site was air-conditioned, but needed to be set up for manufacturing.
Epps said there is high demand for wind power, and the Arkansas location enables the firm to serve a hotly growing wind-power area from Texas to Minnesota, as well as South America.
``Arkansas is really perfect for us. This business is all about logistics,'' he said. Epps added that state and local officials are working with the industry, said Joey Dean, vice president of economic development for the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. Area schools are helping to train and recruit workers.
``Over the past 18 months, wind energy has become a focus of our region and our state. I think it will evolve so that the central part of Arkansas will grow as a hub for wind energy,'' Dean said.