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Originally published February 5, 2013 at 7:41 PM | Page modified February 5, 2013 at 8:20 PM

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Inslee team downplays earlier bid to lure wind-power firm

Gov. Jay Inslee’s “first act” as governor was an effort to lure a struggling Massachusetts wind-power company to Washington.

Seattle Times political reporter

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Gov. Jay Inslee is trying to lure a struggling Massachusetts wind-power company to Washington state.

In one of his first initiatives as governor, Inslee sent a handwritten note and spoke by phone with the chief executive of AMSC, a Devens, Mass.-based firm.

Inslee hinted at the recruitment effort in his inaugural news conference last month, saying his first act after being sworn in was to reach out to a clean-tech firm about moving to the state.

He declined to name the company at the time, saying “these outfits want to keep things under wraps” when looking for new homes.

But Inslee’s office released a copy of his letter on Tuesday in response to a public-disclosure request from The Seattle Times.

In his Jan. 16 note to AMSC CEO Daniel McGahn, Inslee wrote that he’d just taken his oath of office and declared his “first act is to write and invite you to join us in Washington in building a new energy economy. I look forward to shaking your hand.”

During the news conference, Inslee described the firm as “looking to re-establish and consolidate both their headquarters and manufacturing facility” and “interested in our state.”

Inslee was also referring to AMSC earlier in January, when he told reporters he’d spoken with a clean-tech CEO interested in locating “several hundred” employees in Washington.

But despite those optimistic statements, representatives for Inslee and the company sought to walk back expectations on Tuesday, downplaying the prospects of the company moving here.

Jaime Smith, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Inslee “wanted to put out the welcome mat” but cautioned his letter “should not be read as a sign that any company has told us they are looking to relocate.”

AMSC spokesperson Kerry Ferrell said in an emailed statement the company had spoken with Inslee and “is always looking at strategic options to expand its business. However, we have no imminent plans to open a new office in the United States at this time.”

Formerly known as American Superconductor, AMSC makes control systems for wind turbines and touts hyperefficient new cables for electrical grids. But the company has been battered economically in recent years.

In late November, AMSC laid off 25 percent of its workforce, or about 100 employees, according to The Boston Globe. That left the company with 340 workers worldwide, down from a peak of 800 in 2011, the newspaper reported.

The company also has been embroiled in a major lawsuit with a Chinese company it claims stole a key piece of technology by paying off a former AMSC employee in Austria. The employee was sentenced to a year in jail for the theft, the Globe reported.

Inslee’s effort to recruit the firm to Washington is in keeping with his campaign pledge to focus intensely on growing jobs in the state — particularly in green energy and other high-tech sectors.

Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or jbrunner@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner

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