Job growth falls far short at NS wind energy parts plant

$60M government stake, minister still hopeful.

August 3, 2012   by CANADIAN PRESS

Looking for wind tower, blade and turbine markets. Photo: Thinkstock

HALIFAX: Nova Scotia’s economic development minister says he remains hopeful that a wind farm parts manufacturer that the provincial government has a stake in will generate more jobs even though it’s fallen short of anticipated employment targets.

The government announced in 2010 it would spend $60 million as part of a $90-million refit for the former TrentonWorks railcar plant after it was bought by Korean-owned Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering. At the time, the government said up to 500 people could be employed at the plant in its first three years.

But Percy Paris, the economic development minister, believes it only currently employs 66 people.

“I don’t know if disappointment is the right word,” Paris said. “I remain optimistic.”

He said the global wind farm market has gone into a downturn since the deal was announced two years ago, but despite that, he is certain more jobs will be created.

“I’m satisfied in the relationship, the partnership that we have with this international company,” he said.

“I’ve got all the confidence that we will see good jobs here well into the future.”
But the Opposition Liberals said DSTN, the Daewoo subsidiary of which the government has a 49% equity stake, was a bad investment.

“I think that the lack of demand will continue to plague this venture,” said economic development critic Geoff MacLellan, adding that the government’s investment has amounted to almost $1 million per job.

“It’s very difficult to tap into provincial markets, very difficult to tap into the northeastern US market with wind turbines.”

In October, the company told a legislature committee that it employed 164 people at the time and had plans to hire six more workers.

MacLellan said he’s hopeful DSTN can find a market for its wind towers and blades for wind turbines, but he has his doubts.

“As of now I’ve seen no indication that there’s going to be major buyers for that product, which means 66 jobs may be the reality at (DSTN) for the extended future.”

© 2012 The Canadian Press