By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Windstream Energy officials say at least half of the proposed 1,900 jobs that will be created for its $1.5 billion project in Kingston will occur in Hamilton.
The company, a privately financed, American-based firm, announced that four Hamilton companies will provide the hard infrastructure materials to the company’s 300-megawatt Wolfe Island Shoals project near Kingston.
Ian Baines, the Burlington-based president, said a soon-to-be-released consultant’s report will reveal that about 900 of those 1,900 initial construction jobs will be based in Hamilton. Another portion of the 175 operating jobs will also be in Hamilton as well, he said.
Tony DePaulo, Hamilton Niagara regional supervisor for the United Steelworkers, said he “hoped” Hamilton gets all of the 1,900 jobs available.
“You are talking skilled labour,” said DePaulo, who estimates there are up to 500 highly skilled people out of work in Hamilton. “They are saying 1,900 jobs. If it turns out to be 1,000, or 1,200 jobs, I’d still be happy, because they are good jobs, which are hard to find in Hamilton.
The company’s AECOM study is expected to be released over the next few weeks, and Baines said the results are “very positive,” for Hamilton.
Baines has stated that about $700 million will be spent in Ontario, with about $100 million directly injected into the Kingston community.
DePaulo said the potential investment by the companies, which hasn’t been released yet, proves that Hamilton is open for business.
“It sends a signal out to the whole province, to say we have the ways and means, we’ve got business people, industrial leaders in the community that are putting their money where their mouths are,” he said. “And that hasn’t been done in this city for a long time.”
The Hamilton companies involved in the project are: Bermingham Foundation Solutions, which will construct the huge foundations of the wind towers; McKeil Marine, which will transport the materials to Kingston; Walters Group, which will fabricate the structural steel; and the Hamilton Port Authority, which will provide the facilities. The companies are part of a local consortium called the Lake Ontario Offshore Network, formed to lobby the provincial government about the economic benefits of wind energy.
Patrick Bermingham, chief executive officer of Bermingham Foundation Solutions, which recently purchased the former Labatt brewery building on Burlington Street, expects the contract to boost his company’s fortunes.
“We expect to grow the size of our company two-fold over the next five years,” he said.
Walter Koplar, president of Walters Group, said the contract will let him keep most of his 450 employees in Hamilton, rather than relocating the plant closer to specialized projects his business is involved in.
“These are real jobs, not service industry jobs,” he said.
Bruce Wood, president of the Hamilton Port Authority, said the agreement will mean the authority will invest about $20 million into its physical infrastructure over the next five years.
Even though Windstream Energy held a news conference to announce its project using Hamilton businesses Jan. 18 at the Workers Heritage Centre, it is unclear when any construction will begin.
The provincial government established a moratorium on new wind turbine projects last February, arguing more scientific study of the impacts of wind energy is needed. Still Baines said he hoped to complete the wind turbine project by 2016.
He said originally, the project had a five-year timeline, but with the moratorium in effect, it will be extended.
“We are hoping the government will give us a go-ahead (for the project) very shortly,” said Baines.
Windstream holds the only offshore wind power feed-in-tariff (FIT) contract in Ontario. The Ontario Power Authority awarded the contract in May 2010.