By Kansas City Business Journal

Schuff Steel Co. is looking at Ottawa, Kan., as the site of a plant to manufacture towers for wind turbines.

The company is preparing plans for a 200,000-square-foot plant at the site of its existing steel plant in Ottawa. In a release, Schuff said the new plant could employ 200 to 250 when operating at full capacity.

Dennis Randall, executive vice president and general manager of Schuff Steelâ¿¿s Overland Park-based Midwest Division, said the company is preparing construction plans but cautioned that the plant is not yet a sure thing.

The plant would produce a new type of tower for Wind Tower Systems LLC, but the new product must be accepted in the marketplace to justify the manufacturing plant, he said.

The new design is a structural tower wrapped with fabric rather than the conventional rolled-metal tower. Randall said the design is more economical to ship and to accommodate taller towers.

Schuff originally selected Bismarck, N.D., as the site of the proposed tower manufacturing plant. The project qualified for $7 million in tax credits through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

A company release cited ⿿changing market conditions⿝ and a location ⿿central to the wind belt⿝ as reasons for changing the project site to Ottawa.

Randall said company officials are hopeful the federal tax credit could be applied to a plant in Ottawa but arenâ¿¿t certain.

The wind power business is picking up in the region. Siemens opened a plant in December in Hutchinson to produce nacelles for wind turbines. Also last month, Nordic Windpower USA announced that it will move its headquarters and manufacturing operations to Kansas City. The company estimates that it will invest $16 million in the move and bring more than 200 jobs to the area.

Schuff Steel is a subsidiary of Phoenix-based Schuff International Inc. (OTC: SHFK).

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