Gone with the Wind

Green energy firm sacks two-thirds of American workforce days after receiving $32 million government loan

August 16, 2012

Just days after the Export-Import Bank approved a multi-million dollar federal loan guarantee to benefit a mostly foreign-based wind-energy outfit, the company pink-slipped more than 200 American workers.

The Export-Import Bank, a federal agency that promotes and finances sales of U.S. exports to foreign buyers, approved a $32 million loan guarantee on Aug. 2 for a Brazilian firm to purchase wind turbines from LM Wind Power. According to its website, LM Wind Power is headquartered in Denmark.

"Ex-Im Bank’s financing, which guarantees a Bank of America loan, will support approximately 250 permanent American jobs at the company's Little Rock, Ark., and Grand Forks, N.D., manufacturing facilities," the bank said in a release.

The company maintains a manufacturing presence in Arkansas and North Dakota—but the company laid off 234 of the Arkansas plant’s roughly 300 workers just two days after its loan was approved.

"We have this week told our workforce that we are re-sizing our workforce and business to fit our plans for 2013," Adam Ruple, human resources director for LM Wind Power, told the City Wire of Arkansas.

A spokesman for LM Wind Power referred the Free Beacon to the company’s website.

When LM Wind Power came to Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2007, it said it would employ 1,000 people by 2012. But the global economic crunch led to diminishing demand. Three months before its loan guarantee was finalized, LM Wind Power announced its profits had fallen 41 percent last year.

LM Wind Power also has had numerous citations for workplace safety violations. The Department Of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited the firm 11 times in an investigation beginning October 2010 for exposing workers to unsafe conditions and noted the company had demonstrated a "continued pattern of failing to comply" with OSHA standards.

In 2010, LM Wind Power Blades was cited with OSHA violations because of conditions that killed a worker.

The Ex-Im Bank has drawn criticism from free-market advocates, who call it "corporate welfare."

"The Export-Import Bank is a slush fund for corporate welfare that distorts trade flows and should be eliminated," Barney Keller, spokesman for the conservative Club for Growth, said in a statement to the Free Beacon. "It’s a ticking time-bomb that has subsidized everything from Enron to Mexican drug cartels and it should be eliminated as soon as possible before it costs taxpayers."

The Ex-Im Bank enjoys broad support from Democrats and some Republicans, who say it bolsters U.S. exports.

"We’re helping thousands of businesses sell more of their products and services overseas," President Obama said after Congress recently extended funding for the Ex-Im Bank through 2014.

Under a deal cut in Congress by House majority leader Eric Cantor and House minority whip Steny Hoyer, the bank’s lending limit was increased to $140 billion over three years, up from its previous $100 billion limit.

The Export-Import Bank did not respond to requests for comment.