Tall Order: DMI Weathers Economic Winds of Change

After a fast start 18 months ago, DMI is weathering the economic slump that began last fall. said Gary Williams, general manager.
“The downturn hit us at the first of the year,” Williams said. “The market took a break.”
The Tulsa plant is a 500,000 SF facility with 150 welders, assembly and heavy equipment haulers — down 25 percent from a year ago. Once fully operational, DMI may employ as many as 450 people, that will make DMI one of the largest annual tower fabrication capacities in North America. Williams declined to disclose the number of towers
Credit markets, suffering from last year’s meltdown, have hampered investors. A typical wind farm can cost $100 million. Once running full bore, DMI’s annual combined tower production will support more than 3,000 megawatt of installed wind project capacity.
Tall Order
Taking 1-inch steel, DMI makes 80 meter towers in three sections. DMI rolls the steel, welds it, blasts it, paints it and prepares it for pick up so it can ship to the site where the towers will be mated with the blades, which are made by another vendor.
“Logistics is huge for us,” Williams said.
DMI, a subsidiary of Fergus Falls, Minn./Fargo, N.D.-based Otter Tail Corp., selected Tulsa in part because of its close proximity to the Port of Catoosa, Williams said. The quality workforce is another reason.
“Tulsa has a well-trained, educated work force,” Williams said, citing programs at Tulsa Technology Center and Tulsa Community College. The location gives DMI the potential to deliver wind towers to expanding European and South American markets. The Port of Catoosa connects directly to the Mississippi River. From the port, DMI can ship towers by barge either north to the Midwest or south to the Gulf of Mexico.
Also, the location is within driving distance of the major wind corridors in western Oklahoma, West Texas and Kansas.
Demand for domestically produced wind towers is increasing rapidly, said Kylah McNabb, Wind Energy Development Specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. McNabb spoke during the Oklahoma State University Spears School Energy Conference in Tulsa last month.
The wind Industry has set a goal for wind power to supply 20 percent of the nation’s power generation by 2030
The wind sector is mushrooming, technology has led to efficiency improvement in turbines,” McNabb said.
Installations of 8,300 megawatts in 2008 brought the U.S. wind capacity to 25,170 megawatts. And, in the first quarter this year, 2,800 MW have been installed — more than a fourth of all installed last year. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce expects the wind industry to create almost 7,000 jobs within the next five years and 18,000 by 2020 — most coming from the manufacturing sector.
DMI’s plant, near Catoosa, will allow DMI to meet that demand, Williams said.
The Tulsa facility was the second new plant acquisition for DMI. The company acquired its Fort Erie, Ontario facility in 2005. That plant started filling orders in May 2006.
The company’s West Fargo manufacturing operation also fabricates and distributes production tools and parts for all of the company’s plants. DMI currently has 500 employees in West Fargo and Fort Erie, Ontario.

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