Grassley ‘pleaded’ with GE to save wind turbine blade jobs in Newton

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s “pleaded” with ranking officials at General Electric to reconsider plans to buy wind turbine blades from a company in Denmark instead of its long-time partner in Iowa.  GE’s plan to shift production overseas has resulted in TPI Composites of Newton announcing the plant’s shutdown in December, eliminating more than 700 jobs.

Grassley says GE listened to his case.  “It was a conversation that went well. They said they would look into it but no certainty from it,” Grassley says. “They did say they were going to get back to us but so far, they haven’t gotten back to us on that.”

GE bought a Denmark-based wind turbine blade maker in 2017 and has placed no orders with TPI for 2022. GE was TPI’s biggest customer, and TPI is Newton’s largest employer since the pullout of appliance giant Maytag’s headquarters and factory in 2007.

Grassley is hoping some of the “green energy” jobs in Newton can still be salvaged. “It’s one thing to shut down a plant and lay off 700 people,” Grassley says, “as opposed to cutting back production and maybe laying off half of it.”

Grassley also sent a letter to President Biden, asking him to consider using TPI for the manufacturing of blades for a massive offshore wind farm project. The administration announced earlier this month a plan to build large-scale wind farms all along the East and West Coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. As yet, Grassley says he’s had no response from the White House about using the Iowa factory for that proposal.