TULSA — Employees for a manufacturer of towers for wind turbines in Tulsa face an uncertain future after its parent company announced plans to sell the factory and another in North Dakota.
Otter Tail Corp. said uncertainty in the wind industry led it to enter into an agreement to sell DMI Industries for $20 million. The factory in Tulsa, which employs 167 people, will shutter in November after current orders for wind towers are fulfilled. Another factory in West Fargo, N.D., will close in October with the loss of 216 jobs.
Otter Tail said it couldn't disclose the potential buyer. The sale is pending.
“We are hopeful that potential new owners, who produce a variety of large metal manufacturing products, will see the value in our plants and skilled workforce going forward,” the company said in a statement. “We would like to thank our DMI employees for their hard work and dedication over the past many years.”
Otter Tail said DMI employees would receive severance and other career-transition support. Don Hackler, deputy general counsel for the state Commerce Department, said the agency is reviewing the situation to see what services the state can provide affected workers.
DMI opened its Tulsa plant in late 2007. It has received $1.75 million in rebates from the state's Quality Jobs program since 2009, according to Oklahoma Tax Commission records.
Otter Tail pointed to the Dec. 31 expiration of a federal wind production tax credit as part of the reason for the sale of its wind tower business.
It also mentioned the lack of a national energy policy and low natural gas prices, which makes it hard for wind to compete on price for electricity generation.
The federal production tax credit has been mired in election-year politics. Several bills to extend the credit have failed to win passage in Congress.
The tax credit has been drawn into presidential politics, too. Last week, the campaign of presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the former Massachusetts governor opposed extending the wind production tax credit.
President Barack Obama said he wants to keep the incentive.
A study for the American Wind Energy Association said the loss of the credit could contribute to 37,000 job losses nationwide.
The association celebrated a milestone Tuesday, saying wind-power capacity passed the 50-gigawatt mark, enough to power the equivalent of 13 million homes. Capacity was 25 gigawatts in 2008. Denise Bode, a former Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner who is now CEO of the wind association, said the industry faces an uncertain future. She called on Congress to renew the tax credit.
“Layoffs have begun up and down our American manufacturing supply chain, which the industry has so proudly has built up in support of the U.S. economy and made-in-the-U.S.A. manufacturing,” Bode said in a statement. “And when incoming orders stop, so do factories.”