TRENTON — The provincial government is officially in the steel fabrication business.
On Tuesday, Premier Darrell Dexter joined the province’s business partner, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Ltd., at the reopening of the former TrentonWorks railcar manufacturing plant.
Surrounding them were the massive steel tubes that, when stacked and welded together, will be the first wind turbine tower produced at the plant.
The plant employs about 100 workers. Daewoo has said employment will increase to about 400 once it starts building turbine blades at the facility over the next year.
While they expect to build 50 towers this year, the goal is to produce 250 towers annually by 2015, with sale revenues of $115 million, Daewoo president Sang-Tae Nam said.
Nam said the wind turbine industry has grown significantly in recent years and the meltdown of nuclear facilities in Japan, following an earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, will compound that growth.
Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Trenton Ltd. “is a great example of a project that wouldn’t have happened without the co-operation of the town, the province and the federal government,” Dexter said.
The province paid $19.6 million for a 49 per cent ownership of the company and another $40 million for capital loans and to purchase the previously mothballed plant’s assets from receivers.
Daewoo, a diversified company from South Korea and one of the world’s largest shipbuilders, invested $20 million and is 51 per cent owner of the company.
The federal government provided $10 million but did not get an equity stake.
“Those are expensive jobs,” said Stephen McNeil, Nova Scotia’s Liberal leader.
“We’ve got $70 million in government money invested and 100 jobs so far, that’s $500,000 a job and we haven’t seen a business plan yet.”
Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, also remains unconvinced.
“If this is such a good investment, then why couldn’t they get this money in the private marketplace,” said Cirtwill.
Dexter, however, said Daewoo’s expertise will be helpful “throughout the supply chain” of the Nova Scotia wind power industry.
He pointed to the company’s partnering with the Nova Scotia Community College to train skilled workers and their support of wind power research at Dalhousie University.
This will be Daewoo’s first foray into the North American wind industry.