Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CanAm Wind Energy sets itself to be an industry force

By Matt Glynn
The Buffalo News

Call it tilting at the wind power industry.

Buffalo Niagara Enterprise is teaming up with Greater Rochester Enterprise and the Niagara Economic Development Corp. in Southern Ontario to try to attract investments in that segment of renewable energy.

The initiative, called CanAm Wind Energy, will debut at the 2010 Wind Power Conference and Exhibition, scheduled this week in Dallas.

The three groups are pitching their collective territory as suitable to support the manufacturing, assembly and distribution of wind energy-related components.

The collaboration is designed to better position the three areas to compete as one against big regions in the West and Midwest angling for the same type of investments, said Paul Pfeiffer, a BNE spokesman.

The three groups want to use a unified approach working with government leaders, businesses, universities and other nonprofit economic development groups.

"Each community stands to benefit from the joint effort," Pfeiffer said.

For instance, promoting a bigger roster of suppliers in the CanAm Wind Energy territory increases the area's overall appeal to potential investors, Pfeiffer said. And an investment by a company could generate more business for suppliers from across the territory.

Tom Kucharski, BNE's president, said that development of the wind energy sector suffered during the economic downturn but that interest seems to be picking up again.

"We're betting it will be part of an industry solution going forward," he said. "And what we have here matches up really well with what it looks like the industry will be needing."

Through CanAm Wind Energy, the three groups play up their binational location, proximity to major markets, existing base of suppliers and transportation infrastructure, as well as the strong wind patterns in the Great Lakes area.

Renewable energy is one of the industry clusters the BNE targets for jobs and investment. Kucharski said the region is home to many suppliers that serve other industries, such as the auto industry, that could diversify their businesses by making parts for wind turbines.

The effort will include promoting the region, connecting businesses with resources available in the region and finding ways to increase resources for new and existing companies.

The binational initiative was formalized through a memorandum of understanding among the three organizations. About $10,000 will be spent on the CanAm Wind Energy effort in Dallas, with a grant from National Grid covering about half of those expenses, Pfeiffer said.


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