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New turbine blade business gets started in Howard

HOWARD -- Officials in Howard broke ground Tuesday for yet another new project in the city's industrial park -- the fifth groundbreaking in five years.

HOWARD -- Officials in Howard broke ground Tuesday for yet another new project in the city's industrial park -- the fifth groundbreaking in five years.

Knight & Carver, a San Diego, Calif.-based wind blade firm, signed contracts in July to lease what will be a 26,000 square foot building for at least the next five years.

Gov. Mike Rounds addressed the dignitaries and local residents attending the groundbreaking and praised the city for its long-term planning and forward thinking.

"This is a great example of what happens when you start long-term plans," he said.

Also addressing the crowd of about 50 people was Mike Knutson, economic director of Miner County Community Revitalization.

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"We appreciate all of the collaboration that went into making this project a reality," said Knutson, referring to the teamwork between his organization, the state, Heartland Consumer Power District and Knight & Carver officials. "We were pleased to have Governor Rounds and the other project partners gather in Howard to celebrate this momentous event. We've got a lot to be proud of here in Howard and the whole county. Today, we're taking a big step, but we're confident this will not be the last step."

Rounds also spoke positively about the state's future, pointing to the number of out-of-state companies that attended the recent Governor's Golf Classic.

"We had 49 out-of-state visitors that came looking at moving, expanding or transferring their business to South Dakota," he said. "That's an example of the activity we've got."

Rounds said Howard's healthy school attendance has reflected the town's futuristic development strategies, setting a great example for other communities that are struggling to keep their classrooms filled.

"Small communities in and around the eastern part of South Dakota have really caught on to (the idea) that if you want to save your school, the way to do it is to have a viable economy in your community," said Rounds.

Knight & Carver specializes in the construction and repair of wind-turbine blades.  The company was founded in 1972 as a custom yacht manufacturer. Knight & Carver's Wind Blade Division was created in 1997, employing the same methods used in boat-building for the manufacture of wind-turbine blades, which are now utilized worldwide.

Gary Kanaby, Wind Blade Division manager for Knight & Carver, said the new plant in Howard will allow the company's crews to service more wind blades in a shorter amount of time, along with allowing the fabrication of new 80- to 90-foot wind blades in a more central location. The company, which hopes to begin operations in November, will employ around 15 people initially and hopefully double that by next summer.

"We couldn't be more excited about bringing our wind blade operations to South Dakota," said Kanaby. "The economic incentives provided by the state proved to be very convincing. We look forward to helping generate more renewable-energy jobs and increased economic prosperity for the people of Howard, Miner County and South Dakota."

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By locating in South Dakota, the plant should enjoy a central location for Midwest customers that normally would have had to wait for a crew to be flown in for service, Kanaby said.

"In Minnesota and Iowa are the third and fourth greatest amounts of wind turbines in the U.S. So that's why we're so strategically located so close to those," he said. "Also, there's quite a number that were installed eight to 10 years ago that now need service. It puts us in the right place. We also have the molds to build those particular blades."

As early as 1998, Miner County Community Revitalization funded early anemometer studies that supplemented previous wind data for South Dakota that had been derived from weather satellite data.

MCCR also was instrumental in the installation of two wind turbines in Howard Industrial Park.

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