Vestas sent about 80 employees from its Brighton blade manufacturing plant home with pink slips Tuesday, as part of planned companywide layoffs announced earlier in the year.
More layoffs are expected to come this week. The company’s Windsor employees are scheduled for a mandatory meeting Thursday, in which canteen employees were told to stay home, according to an employee who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“This workforce reduction represents about 5 percent of Vestas’ manufacturing employees in the state,” wrote Andrew Longeteig, spokesman for Vestas at company headquarters in Oregon, in a prepared statement. “This is a difficult decision because we must part with dedicated and talented people in Colorado who have helped make Vestas the global leader in wind energy.”
Weld County Employment Services provided Vestas employees with “transition” packets, which contained information about filing for unemployment and the resources the office has offer, such as workshops and training.
“We offered (to have on-site meetings) and they have declined,” said Tammy Winter, case manager/rapid response coordinator for Weld. “They have chosen to just receive the packets, and they are giving those out as they meet with employees. I reviewed those with each representative at each plant.”
On Tuesday, three employees also were escorted from the Windsor blade plant, the anonymous employee stated.
Vestas’ struggles this year have been immense, and company officials in the Denmark-based wind turbine maker have predicted more dire results company-wide next year.
Just months ago, the company announced 3,700 layoffs worldwide by the end of the year. Until recently, the company’s newer facilities in Colorado had mostly been spared, save about 120 layoffs combined at the tower facility in Pueblo and the blade manufacturing plant in Brighton.
Last week, in what is being called a commitment to Brighton, the company opted to consolidate its three American research and development facilities into the nacelle and blade factory. But Tuesday’s layoffs affected only the blade factory, which has had about a couple hundred employees for more than a year. The blade plant has only been fully functioning since January. The nacelle factory has been operating since 2010.
With the Windsor blade manufacturing plant opening in 2008, Vestas hasn’t yet celebrated five years in Colorado, but Longeteig stated the Colorado plants will remain an important investment for the company.
“The company has been in the U.S. market for more than 30 years and Colorado remains a tremendous state in which to do business,” Longeteig wrote. “Vestas intends to be here for the long haul.”
Vestas started the year with around 1,700 employees in Colorado, and it was down to around 1,600 prior to Tuesday’s layoffs. The Colorado workforce is now down to roughly 1,500, Longeteig said. He would not comment on any further layoffs in Colorado, nor would he give exact numbers.
In the Vestas statement, Longeteig wrote that Vestas had been experiencing its busiest year in the U.S. and Canada. And Colorado factories, he wrote, are filling orders for projects in Canada, Mexico and Central and South Americas.
“However, the U.S. wind industry has slowed, largely due to the uncertainty of the federal Production Tax Credit extension at the end of 2012,” Longeteig wrote. “This has led to a significant reduction in turbine orders for 2013, and the market slowdown is affecting Vestas’ manufacturing facilities in Colorado.”
The wind production tax credit, set to expire at the end of the year, is extended to those using wind energy, and equates to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the production of electricity from turbines and applies for the first 10 years of electricity production.
Democratic U.S. Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet used the news to continue their calls for the House and Senate to renew the credit. U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, a Republican, also vowed to keep fighting for the extension.
“Today’s news of additional layoffs at Vestas is extremely disappointing because they could have been prevented had Congress acted to pass the wind PTC,” Bennet said in a prepared statement. “If we let the credit expire, the wind industry, as well as thousands of jobs in Colorado and tens of thousands more across the country, will take a devastating hit. The wind PTC enjoys bipartisan support and is an economic driver that is critical to jobs and a clean and diverse energy portfolio in this country. It should be extended, and it should be extended immediately.”
Longeteig said that company is not yet finished with the layoffs, but he didn’t have a total on how many more were left to get to the full 3,700.