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America’s wind corridor

From Minnesota to Texas, wind power sweeps new jobs into old-tech towns.

New trade: A Clipper crew assembles the hub of a wind turbine in an Iowa factory that formerly built printing presses.

Mark Clayton

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Hundreds of workers lost their jobs after the Rockwell-Goss printing press factory closed here in Cedar Rapids in 2001. The hulking empty shell sat idle on the outskirts of the city for four years.

But that was before wind power blew into town, bringing thousands of clean-tech manufacturing jobs to Iowa and the Midwest.

In many cases, the new industry is setting up shop in defunct heavy manufacturing plants, bringing new economic life and vitality to old settings.

Bob Loyd, who once oversaw crews manufacturing the last printing presses to leave the old Rockwell-Goss factory, now manages workers assembling the newest generation of giant wind turbines in the same building.

“We’ve all watched the demise of heavy manufacturing in the Midwest in recent years,” says Mr. Loyd, plant manager at Clipper Turbine Works, a division of Clipper Windpower in Carpinteria, Calif.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all returned. But wind power is definitely helping bring some of that manufacturing muscle back.”

Before the nation’s financial crisis hit, wind manufacturing was on a roll. Riding a wave of wind-farm development, some 55 new or expanded facilities popped up nationwide just last year – from blade manufacturers to bearing makers – in what some describe as a new north-south wind manufacturing corridor running roughly from Minnesota to Texas.

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