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USA - Rothbury foundry to add 70 'green' jobs

ROTHBURY — When you hear "green jobs," you may not automatically think "gray-iron foundry."

But a Rothbury foundry is expected to add 70 jobs thanks to a state-supported project that will help it make iron castings used in windmills.

Carlton Creek Ironwoods LLC, formerly Kurdziel Industries, won approval Monday from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority for a Rural Employment Tax Credit valued at $1.63 million over seven years.

That income-tax credit will make possible an investment in new furnaces and other equipment estimated at $10.3 million over five years.

The new equipment will enable the foundry to make the higher-gradeductile iron needed for windmill parts, according to Ken Zach, Carlton Creek's chief executive officer.

"We already have some wind projects under way," Zach said. "This will get us into a little bit more complex parts."

Those parts include gear cases; the drive between those cases and the windmill blades; and torque arms, which absorb the shock when windmill blades start and slow down, Zach said. Customers for the new parts include Winergy, a division of Siemens AG, he said.

Zach said he plans to begin installing the new equipment next year, "hopefully the earlier the better, depending how the economy is treating us." He said the new jobs would likely start late in 2009.

The estimated average wage of the new jobs is $553 per week, according to MEGA.

In addition to the tax credit, the project will be assisted by up to $146,500 in training grants through the Economic Development Job Training program. Those grants will be $750 for each new employee up to 70 jobs, and $500 for each existing employee. The company currently employs 188 people in Rothbury.

The village of Rothbury earlier approved a 50 percent, 12-year abatement on new personal property taxes generated by the capital investment. That's expected to save the company $180,159.

According to a news release from the office of Sen. Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores, the company chose its Rothbury facility over a competing site in China. Carlton Creek has a small leased facility in Tianjin employing eight people, according to Anne Hardy, executive director of the Oceana County Economic Development Corp.

The job-creating investment is welcome news in the economically distressed county, Hardy said.

"With the unemployment rate in Oceana as high as it's getting, and we've lost a lot of jobs, I'm very excited that we're keeping Carlton Creek in the community and adding new jobs," she said. "We need some new jobs in these times.

"The village of Rothbury and Carlton Creek have been great to work with, and we hope to continue to work with them."

Oceana County's unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in September, the latest month for which local figures are available. That was well above Michigan's seasonally unadjusted jobless rate, which was 8.3 percent in September.

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