Mitsubishi confirmed on Monday it will “mothball” the new plant at Chaffee Crossing in Fort Smith, putting potentially 400 new jobs on hold.
“Something good will happen at that site,” said Paul Harvel, president of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce, “We just don’t know what it is right now.”
In a written statement a Mitsubishi spokesperson said, “This move represents a pragmatic response to market conditions and the economic redirection of North America’s onshore wind turbine market that could not have been anticipated a few short years ago.”
“Could be a year,” said Harvel, “Could be two years, but I do think it’s gonna be easily a year before anything else is done at that particular facility.”
Mitsubishi wrapped up construction in the fall of 2011. Monday the gates were locked and the grounds unkempt. The plant expected to bring in between 330 and 400 new jobs. “I am confident that that building someday will have employees in it,” said Harvel, “I am hopeful that Mitsubishi will be the one that’s doing that.”
Mitsubishi says the demand for wind turbines in North America slowed down. The company is also in a legal battle with General Electric regarding patent claims. A Mitsubishi spokesperson said, “Wind turbine developers are hesitant to purchase Mitsubishi wind turbines and banks are loathe to provide funding for projects that use Mitsubishi turbines. Mitsubishi can’t manufacture wind turbines that it can’t sell.”
Harvel says they plant was originally supposed to open in the fall of 2011.
Fort Smith leaders remain optimistic. “We’ll still welcome them with open arms when they decide to open or whatever decision they do decide to go with,” said Stephanie Malone, Director of Marketing at the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority.
Havel says the chamber will continue to communicate with Mitsubishi.