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Vestas' plan is 'economic adrenaline' for Portland

PORTLAND — Vestas Wind Systems, the world's largest maker of wind turbines, said Monday it plans to expand its North American headquarters in Portland by increasing its work force in the city from about 350 employees to at least 1,200 and building a roughly 500,000-square-foot office.

The city offered Vestas $12.5 million in incentives in hopes the wind farm developer would expand its Portland operations and build a $250 million facility, Portland Mayor-elect Sam Adams said.

Vestas is expected to add 850 white-collar jobs to its Portland work force under the deal, and build on the city's south waterfront.

Adams added, however, that the city's agreement with the Danish wind farm developer is not a done deal. The city and Vestas will have to agree on a specific site in Portland and the state must decide the financial incentives it will provide Vestas, he said.

"This is an agreement with Vestas," Adams said. "It's a nonbinding agreement."

He said confirming the deal would be one of his top priority's when he takes office in January.

Adams called Vestas' announcement "a big shot of economic adrenaline," noting that Germany-based Daimler AG announced in October it will close its Portland plant in 2010. The company's plant on Swan Island has long been known for producing Freightliner trucks.

The Vestas expansion would also burnish Portland's reputation as a city ahead of many others when it comes to being green.

"This is a very green, great company and Portland is a green, great city," he said. "I want Portland to be the greenest city on Earth."

Vestas Americas has been headquartered in Portland since 2002, said senior vice president Roby Roberts, and has six different office sites throughout the city. The deal would help ensure the company remains in the city.

Roberts said Vestas had explored the possibility of building offices in other cities, but Portland has emerged as the wind farm developer's best option not only because it already has offices here, but because Oregon has policies and tax incentives that have made the state an attractive site for renewable energy companies.

He said he and others from Vestas also have met with Oregon University System representatives, who have assured the company its schools could serve as pipelines, providing the company with skilled workers.

"It all paints a good picture that Portland is open for business," Roberts said.

He said Vestas has offices and plants scattered throughout the U.S., including a research facility in Houston and a blade manufacturing plant in Windsor, Colo.

In August, the company announced it selected Pueblo, Colo., as the site of a factory where it will build towers that support its turbines.

Roberts said Vestas would like to break ground on its Portland offices by the end of 2009 — if the deal goes through.

Wind turbines dot the landscape just east of Wasco in Sherman County. Vestas Wind Systems plans to expand its North American headquaters in Portland, building a 500,000-square-foot facility and adding roughly 850 employees. - AP