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Delaware County regroups after green factories fizzle

March 20, 2012

A central Indiana county is pulling back its financial support for a pair of green-energy companies who so far haven't delivered on plans for factories with hundreds of workers.

The Delaware County commissioners on Monday approved withdrawing $5 million of property-tax support for Italian company Brevini Wind, which in 2009 announced plans for a 455-worker factory outside Muncie that would make wind-turbine gearboxes.

Brevini now has about 70 workers in Yorktown and will still receive $1.7 million in tax-increment financing revenue, The Star Press of Muncie reported.

In its 2009 announcement, Brevini said it would spend $60 million on the project after relocating its U.S. offices from the Chicago suburb of Vernon Hills. The new jobs were supposed to pay an average of $46,000 each.

Delaware County officials also agreed to let the other company, VAT Energies LLC, sell some unused wind-and-solar-powered streetlights that it expected to build in Muncie. The county hopes to recoup $250,000 it paid for a wind vane planned along Interstate 69 that was meant to brand Delaware County as a green manufacturing hub. It was never erected.

VAT Energies, a subsidiary of a German alternative energy company, said in 2009 that it planned to spend $3.3 million to open a 60,000-square-foot facility near Yorktown with up to 120 workers by 2011. 

"It's a hard lesson learned," county Commissioner Larry Bledsoe said about the agreements. "This is the best that it gets, unfortunately."

Commissioners President Todd Donati acknowledged that the agreement with VAT meant that the 100-plus jobs promised by German businessman Oliver Viehweider would never materialize.

Donati said the county would "get what we can, up to $300,000," from the sale of the unused VAT streetlights and save thousands of dollars from a potential legal battle.

"At least we get the $300,000, and we can move on," Donati said.

Brevini Wind has struggled to land projects in the troubled wind-energy industry. Company officials hope to win contracts in other businesses in an effort to employ 250 people by the end of 2013 under an extension of the company's job-creation incentives with the county.

Bledsoe said that VAT's failure was an unfortunate outcome of the pressure on communities to add jobs, especially in the wake of the recession.

"It's the result of very aggressive competition among local communities trying to get economic development," Bledsoe said. "You offer the best incentive you can. Unfortunately, some things don't work out."

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