Iowa’s fast-growing renewable energy industry has prompted a German manufacturer to choose Iowa for its first U.S. manufacturing plant which will make parts for wind turbines.

Lowell Junkins, executive director of the Lee County Economic-Development Group, says the German corporation Siemens Energy chose a vacant site in Fort Madison. Junkins says Siemens — one of the largest companies in the world — will be building 160-foot-tall, 11-ton wind turbine blades in Fort Madison by the first half of 2007.

Junkins says Siemens will buy a 224-thousand-square facility at a Fort Madison industrial park where semi trailers were manufactured and will remodel it. He says the Fort Madison site beat out a lot of other locations that were also considered thanks to its location near railroads, highways and the Mississippi River. Junkins says transportation infrastructure was critical as Siemens wanted a point from which they could ship all year round down the Mississippi’s “intermodal waterway” and get raw materials easily as well as ship out the finished product around the country and possibly internationally.

With a final product more than 150-feet long, Junkins says it’s a logistical challenge. They weigh 11 tons apiece and to transport them by road, operators attach wheels to each end of the blade and tow them with a semi along the road to the windfarm locations.

Junkins says the agreement between Siemens, Lee County Economic Development and the state includes a guarantee of at least 261 jobs, but with construction and all the goods and services to support that — as well as transportation, he expects 400 jobs to be created, at least while it’s built. After it’s complete, he says permanent employment is likely to be about 400 people, counting support jobs.

Junkins says another thing that made Fort Madison a prime location is that it’s just south of “the heart of Wind Country in the United States.” Junkins is a former state senator who was the Democratic party’s nominee for governor in 1986.