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Early Christmas gift for Winkler

Site work is underway for the VBINE plant. Steven Sukkau Winkler Times

Site work is underway for the VBINE plant. Steven Sukkau Winkler Times

By Don Radford

Santa Claus came early for the City of Winkler last week when local investors Laurence Braun and John Schmidt joined VBINE Energy in announcing that a wind turbine manufacturing plant in the city's industrial park would mean 100 or more jobs.

Preliminary work has already begun on a 7.5 acre site that will be home to the 32,000 sq. ft. plant that will assemble and ship vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) to VBINE customers around the world.

George Klassen, chairman of the Winkler Stanley Economic Development board, kicked off last Wednesday's press conference, calling the announcement "tremendous news" for the community. Klassen said the new venture is another example of Winkler being a "can-do community that takes action."

Winkler, he said, sees opportunity where others see challenges.

Braun told the large audience gathered for the announcement that the new venture came together very quickly - starting with a casual sidewalk conversation in Moosomin, Sask. (the home of VBINE Energy) barely two months ago. That conversation, he said, led to a discussion between himself and Schmidt, a trip to Moosomin and an agreement between the two men that "this project needs to come to Winkler."

A beaming Mayor Martin Harder applauded Braun and Schmidt for their efforts and welcomed VBINE to Winkler.

Harder recalled his excitement following an initial meeting with Braun and Schmidt when they outlined their plans, saying the new venture will bring many new jobs, an increased tax base and other benefits to the city.

Barry Ireland, VBINE's president and chief executive officer, said the company had been looking for another site to handle work that could not be done at their too-small Moosomin plant. Winkler, he said, made the short list with Sault Ste. Marie in Ontario but was VBINE's choice because of its labour force, access to transportation, and enthusiasm.

VBINE chairman Lynn Abrahamson said VBINE is confident there is a huge worldwide market for the 5-kW turbines the company manufactures, saying that nations like India have tens of thousands of villages that require inexpensive and easy to install and maintain electricity generating systems. He estimated there are millions of sites throughout the world where VBINE wind turbines could be installed.