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LM Wind Power lease looks to future expansion

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LM Wind Power plans to renew a lease for continued operations in Grand Forks, but an opt-out clause in the agreement will allow the company to move out of its building if it relocates to a larger facility in the city.

The Grand Forks Jobs Development Authority unanimously approved a three-year lease for LM Wind to occupy the 124,800-square-foot building at 1550 S. 48th St., where the company manufactures wind turbine blades. The lease keeps the lease at roughly $1.8 million and is similar to previous agreements, but one change includes a 90-day opt-out clause for part or all of the facility.

That means LM Wind could vacate the building before the lease is up in July 2020 if it gave the city a 90-day notice and moved to a larger facility in Grand Forks.

A second change includes renting two lots near the facility for blade storage at an additional $1,320 per month, according to the lease.

The current facility is designed for producing smaller wind blades than industry standards, according to JDA staff. Having the flexibility of an opt-out clause would allow LM Wind to find a facility to make larger blades while securing its future in the city, the report stated.

"The blades are getting longer, and you never know what will be necessary to fill their manufacturing requirements," said Keith Lund, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. "They felt it was important to preserve that option if they were to make another investment in the community."

Coming to Grand Forks in 1999 as LM Glasfiber, the company headquartered in Denmark became part of General Electric Co. earlier this year. LM Wind has occupied its Grand Forks facility since 2009 with leases being renewed every three years.

Lund and Christopher Springham, vice president of global communications and sustainability for LM Wind, declined to say if there were plans to expand operations in Grand Forks.

"What I can say on the record is that we have a long and proud history in Grand Forks and have enjoyed consistent support from our employees and the community throughout that time," Springham wrote in an email. "We remain optimistic about the future of the plant as always, subject to market conditions remaining supportive for wind, which they are at present."

This year, American wind power reported its best first quarter in nearly 20 years, according to a May report from the American Wind Energy Association. Demand remained strong for wind energy, according to the AWEA report, and Midwest states, including North Dakota, have been the target of wind farm projects in recent years.

Earlier this year, LM Wind started shipping blades across the country via rail from Grand Forks after a railyard northwest of the city was finished.

Lund called the Grand Forks branch one of more profitable and efficient plants for the company. The wind industry outlook is strong, according to the JDA analysis.

"We can't be complacent, but the future looks bright," Lund said. "It seems to me that they are a solid corporate member of Grand Forks with a lot of growth potential."

The lease deal should be finalized by the end of the month, when the previous agreement expires.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers business and political stories. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family continues to raise registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as the Dickinson city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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