Temporary layoffs have ended for some workers at a wind blade manufacturing plant in Newton. TPI Composites General Manager Mark Parriot says 152 employees were laid off at the end of last year as the plant was retooled to make larger, more energy efficient wind blades.

“The first group of those people came in last Friday,” Parriot says. “We started a weekend shift, so the group of people were part of that weekend shift.” All 152 workers who were laid off should be back at work within a month.

“The balance of the folks who were put on furlough at the end of (2011) will be coming in during the month of April, some as soon as next week,” Parriot says. Just last week, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman took a tour of the Newton plant and praised Iowa for being “on the cutting edge of wind energy.”

Parriot says TPI will need even more workers in the months to come. The company hosted a job fair earlier this month. “We had nearly 100 people show up, so we were very excited about that,” Parriot said. “We’re going to do that again in the future we think and we may even reach out to some other communities.”

The new wind blades are over 20% longer than what the TPI plant had been manufacturing. Parriot said the switch to the longer blades was “customer driven” and required the facility be refitted with new equipment, molds and other material.

By Randy Van, KCOB, Newton