February 27, 2024

Newton gets a second wind with return of TPI Composites in 2024

Wind blade manufacturer signed 10-year lease extension with GE Renewable Energy

TPI Composites, Inc. announced today in a press release that it signed a 10-year lease extension with General Electric Renewable Energy to produce wind blades out of its Newton-based manufacturing facility in Iowa, which had closed down at the end of last year. Production is expected to start again in 2024.

“We are pleased to announce our unique partnering approach with GE to secure the long-term availability of our Newton, Iowa facility for GE’s future blade production needs,” TPI President and CEO Bill Siwek said in the release, noting the agreement is possible in part due to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

When TPI announced in September 2021 it was suspending manufacturing operations in Newton, the company said part of the reason was due to the uncertainty of when wind-related tax credits would go into effect, as well as uncertainties with the regulatory environment, costs and supply chains.

The Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this year, going into effect in August. The law was established to reduce the deficit, lower prescription drug prices and invest in domestic energy production while also promoting sustainable energy, such as wind.

With the support the new law gives to the domestic renewable energy sector, Siwek said TPI looks forward “to working with GE to take advantage of this opportunity to relaunch the Iowa facility.” He went on in his statement to thank General Electric “for their confidence in TPI’s team to implement this strategy.”

Vic Abate, General Electric Renewable Energy’s CEO of Onshore Wind, said his employer “is proud to continue our relationship with TPI in Iowa.” The wind-blade manufacturing plant, he added, has a strong history manufacturing blades for General Electric’s onshore wind turbines.

“…And they have played a key role in helping us to deliver and install our installed base across North America,” Abate said. “We look forward to working together with them in Iowa to create jobs and manufacture equipment that produces clean, reliable, sustainable energy for our customers.”

TPI manufactured wind blades for General Electric in Iowa from 2008 to 2021.

At the moment, TPI does not know how many jobs would be created from reopening the Newton plant, nor does the company know the volume of wind blades it would be making. Josh Syhlman, vice president of global services, told Newton News the plant is still equipped with the tooling the produce blades.

Syhlman and TPI are eager to begin production in Iowa once again.

“TPI is excited to continue being a part of Newton,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for me.”

Mayor Mike Hansen said in a statement to the newspaper that the city looks forward to welcoming TPI and their employees back to Newton. Last year the mayor was confident the resiliency of the city and its “diversified economy” would pull through despite the initial closure.

“The company has been a great community partner since they came to Newton and we anticipated they would work hard to keep their plant and jobs in Iowa,” Hansen said. “This announcement is a positive step forward and we are excited to see production begin at their facility here in Newton in 2024.”

When TPI officially suspended its operations, more than 700 employees were without a job. Before the Newton plant closed its doors, the company collaborated with IowaWORKS to hold a career fair for the displaced workers. About 130 employers across Iowa participated in the fair.

Although the career fair was open to all job seekers, it was initially created to aid TPI employees. Wind blades have not been made in the Newton plant since the beginning of the year, but TPI maintained its lease of the factory through 2022 and was actively exploring other opportunities for the facility.

TPI was the largest employer in Jasper County at the time of its closing. The company began producing wind blades one year after Maytag was purchased by the Whirlpool Corporation and ceased its longtime Newton operations. It was a huge blow to Newton’s economy. TPI partly filled in that loss of industry.

Frank Liebl, executive director of Newton Development Corporation, told Newton News that about a third of TPI’s workforce at the time of the closing were Jasper County residents. He estimated another third was from Marshall County and another third from Polk County.

The unemployment rate in Jasper County was at about 3.6 or 3.7 percent in December 2021 when the TPI plant closed. By the next month, it climbed to about 5 percent. Since then, Liebl said “things have leveled off again.” The current unemployment rate in Jasper County is about 2.5 percent.

“We didn’t see near the uptick in unemployment that we thought we would see,” Liebl said, adding that the loss was distributed among other counties. “…A lot of these other companies in the area picked up some TPI employees, so they were able to get on and find jobs shortly after TPI shut down, too.”

Liebl is unsure why it’s going to take TPI so long to ramp up, but he imagines there are lot of details that need to be worked out. He doesn’t know for sure. Regardless, he sees positive impact for Newton going forward. It will take some time, but he foresees TPI returning as the largest employer in the county.

“I really think with this contract and its 10-year window that we’ll see them, again, being the leading employer in Jasper County.

In the same industrial district as TPI is the neighboring Arcosa, which constructs wind towers at its Newton plant. Arcosa, too, experienced its own set of layoffs around the same time as TPI. Liebl said that company is now in the process of hiring a few more people as production continues to ramp up.

“I’m sure the Inflation Reduction Act had some incentives for them also because it seems like anybody that had something to do with renewables was going to get a benefit from that act,” Liebl said, noting Arcosa has contracts to make towers for a number of wind energy suppliers.

Read General Electric Renewable Energy CEO of Onshore Wind Vic Abate’s full statement here:

“GE is proud to continue our partnership with TPI in Iowa. TPI has a strong history manufacturing blades for GE’s onshore wind turbines, and they have played a key role in helping us to deliver and install our installed base across North America. We look forward to working together with them in Iowa to create jobs and manufacture equipment that produces clean, reliable, sustainable energy for our customers.”

Read TPI Composites, Inc. President and CEO Bill Siwek’s full statement here:

“We are pleased to announce our unique partnering approach with GE to secure the long-term availability of our Newton, Iowa facility for GE’s future blade production needs. This agreement is possible in part due to the support provided by the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 for critical American industries serving the domestic renewable energy sector. We look forward to working with GE to take advantage of this opportunity to relaunch the Iowa facility and thank GE for their confidence in TPI’s team to implement this strategy.”

Read Newton Mayor Mike Hansen’s full statement here:

“The City of Newton looks forward to welcoming TPI and their employees back to Newton. The company has been a great community partner since they came to Newton and we anticipated they would work hard to keep their plant and jobs in Iowa. This announcement is a positive step forward and we are excited to see production begin at their facility here in Newton in 2024.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext. 560 or cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.