In central U.S., a growing 'wind belt' of manufacturing

Siemens opens a new wind service distribution center in Oklahoma, reinforcing the notion of a growing "wind belt" in the geographic center of the United States.

Americans have heard of the Rust Belt, Bible Belt, Sun Belt and even Corn Belt.

Perhaps it's time to add "Wind Belt" to the lexicon.

Siemens Energy on Thursday formally opened its new 64,000 sq. ft. wind service distribution center in Woodward, Okla. The facility, which will speed up deliveries and maintenance for the company, joins others in Wichita, Kan.; Hutchinson, Kan.; Fort Madison, Iowa; Houston, Texas; Boulder, Colo. and Elgin, Ill.

It will undoubtedly help Siemens service a trio of wind projects in Oklahoma -- the OU Spirit and Keenan II projects in Woodward and OG&E Crossroads farm in Dewey County -- but also expand the German conglomerate's footprint in the geographic center of the country. (It's headquartered in Orlando, Fla.)

Though the U.S. Department of Energy has an intense focus on offshore wind projects -- an attraction owing to the country's extensive coastline as well as the ability to locate turbines near metropolitan areas, reducing transmission and distribution infrastructure costs -- land-based wind projects are also part of the mix.

Judging by the map above, you can see that there's a strong strip of wind-friendly states in the dead center of the U.S., which bodes well for local economies that rely heavily on farming, manufacturing and construction but have seen population decreases in recent decades and unemployment rate increases in recent years in the wake of a troubled global economy.

It doesn't just make sense from a natural resources point of view; it also helps blue-collar workers transition out of sectors with declining growth into new ones, without a complete re-think of their skill-set.

An exchange of blue collars for green ones, effectively.

From a 2011 Bureau of Business Research Report from the University of Nebraska -- Lincoln:

Displaced workers from the manufacturing, construction, and 53 construction-related services industries all had as high or a higher likelihood of re-employment in a green collar job than workers displaced from other industries.

With the new Siemens facility -- as well as others in the broader region by rivals GE and Vestas -- more proof that employers are going where the resources are, natural or otherwise.

A "wind belt" to complement the rest? With the right conditions, it just might happen.

Map: U.S. Dept. of Energy

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