5. Molded Fiber Glass does not expect to lay off any workers in the coming year after laying off 92 in 2012, said Dave Giovannini, plant manager.
"We are anticipating a level of business that will allow us to retain our work force," he said.
Molded Fiber Glass was voted No. 5 story of the year in the American News newsroom.
In 2012, Molded Fiber Glass had an up-and-down year related to uncertainty about the federal Production Tax Credit for wind energy. Legislation to extend the subsidy, which makes wind energy more cost-competitive with coal and natural gas-generated electricity, has stalled in Congress. The tax credit is set to expire at the end of the year.
Orders for wind blades were higher early in the year as developers rushed to get the blades before the credit expired. Molded Fiber Glass set a production record of 100 wind blades in July, Giovannini said.
By September, however, orders had dropped steeply, causing the company to trim its work force of about 370 employees to about 295.
On Oct. 21, plant managers called back 15 of the laid-off workers after orders increased somewhat.
In addition to receiving requests for its 40-meter-blade, the plant had received orders for a new, larger blade. The molds for the new, 48.7-meter blade are being shipped to Aberdeen, Giovannini said.
The Aberdeen plant will build the first blades, which will be analyzed and inspected before full production of the larger blades begin.
As of Wednesday, Congress had still not passed an extension of the Production Tax Credit. While the passage of the legislation is crucial to the wind energy industry, failure to pass it will not mean layoffs at the Aberdeen plant, Giovannini said.
Orders for 2013 are such that the plant can maintain its work force, he said.
The tax credit provides a 2.1-cent-per-kilowatt-hour benefit for the first 10 years of a renewable energy facility's operation. In lieu of the per-kilowatt-hour credit, a wind farm developer can get 30 percent of a building project paid for through a federal grant.
Several proposals have been offered by Congress, including a one-year extension and a six-year extension with subsidies gradually being phased out by the sixth year. Some legislators are in favor of dropping the tax credit entirely because of the need to cut federal spending.
The tax credit, however, is one of more than 20 extenders that are part of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Automatic spending cuts and tax increases will go into effect Jan. 1 if Congress and the president don't reach an agreement on their own set of revenue enhancements and spending cuts.
Giovannini said that whether more employees are called back to work depends on the number of wind blade orders received. If orders increase in 2013, there is potential to call back some of those employees.
"It all depends on our orders," he said.
We are counting down the top 10 local stories of 2012, as voted by the American News newsroom and editorial board. The countdown concludes Dec. 31 with the No. 1 story of the year, along with the reader top 10 as voted on AberdeenNews.com.