TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- A wind turbine tower manufacturer plans to expand operations at its Tulsa factory to capitalize on the burgeoning wind energy market, officials said.
DMI Industries intends to add about 225 jobs by mid 2009, bringing to 450 the number of employees in Tulsa.
"Certainly, the demand for wind energy is helping us grow," said John Erickson, the CEO of DMI's parent company, Otter Tail Corp. of Minnesota. "As a nation, we only use about 1 percent wind energy now and many think it will grow to 15, 20 or 25 percent."
U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., and Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley joined company officials for the announcement Wednesday.
DMI makes 300-foot towers that hold wind turbines for companies such as General Electric. It purchased a building along Interstate 244 last year and opened the factory in March. The first tower from Tulsa shipped in May.
The demand for the wind towers was immediate after the factory opened, Erickson said.
The industry has been especially busy in recent months with support from investors such as oil magnate Boone Pickens, whose plan involves supplanting the natural gas used to generate power with electricity from wind turbines, then using the natural gas to fuel vehicles.
DMI President Stefan Nilsson said the company had always planned to expand operations in Tulsa, but the plant's success speeded that up.
The company now uses about 300,000 square feet of the factory, but officials expect that to eventually encompass the site's entire 500,000 square feet.
The factory's general manager, Kevin Ishmael, said there will be great demand in Tulsa for skilled positions such as welders.
DMI will also expand capacity at its factory in West Fargo, N.D.