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From dirty workshop to shiny wind power factory

From dirty workshop to shiny wind power factory

| Text: Carl-Gustav Lindén, photo: Mikael Nybacka

A group of Fredrikshamn machine assemblers and electricians are about to finish their education. They'll leave the vocational training institute in South Kymmenedalen just before Christmas, and start work with Winwind in a new factory near the docks, making wind turbines. They are specially trained to be ready when one of Finland's future industries is really getting off the ground.

The company's largest owners are from India and Abu Dhabi.

The factory hall was ready in early October. Factory chief Kalevi Mattila, 37, used to work in the USA and Hungary on the supply side for large mobile telephone producers. He's happy with his career change.

Photo: Mikael Nybacka

"I feel very happy to have ended up in this. These days it's rare to be given the chance to recruit from scratch for a completely new organisation."

Like an operating theatre

This summer Winwind advertised for 28 people to attend a specialist course at the vocational training institute. There were 750 applicants. Johannes Talja, 28, had been working in the same workshop for eight years when people were beginning to get laid off, and work more or less dried up. He saw Winwind's ad and applied for the course. Mr Talja thinks this feels like the future. Not least is it nice to get away from his previous work place, which was dirty and noisy.

"This is almost like an operation theatre," he says, gesturing towards the assembly hall where a total of 2,500 components wait to be made into generators and gears which will be put together in identical cast iron casings and turned into wind turbines. By next year, Winwind plans to employ 250 people working three shifts.

Photo: Mikael Nybacka

Mikko Ahonen, 29, has worked as an electrician at various plants. This spring he found himself unemployed.

"It was a fistful of money and thanks for your time."

After a few months he got tired of being out of work, and found Winwind's ad on the Internet. Both Mikko and Johannes agree this could be called a "green work place".

"We've been educated in recycling, for instance," says Johannes Talja.

Kalevi Mattila says there's new thinking both in production, in the store room, in personnel and with energy recycling.

"We try to be green, even if it's not the main point to some of what we do."

It's picking up

The global recession has lowered demand for wind turbines, but Kalevi Mattila says Winwind works with the view of sales picking up again soon. At the same time he's worried the wind turbine industry could suffer the same sorry fate as that of subcontractors in the mobile telephone industry.

Photo: Mikael Nybacka

"We had galloping growth in that business for ten years, and we see the same sort of thing in this business - it's a bit like déjà  vu."

Still Winwind has strong faith in the future, and the Fredrikshamn plant can double its capacity if needs be. The next door plot is already reserved. Kalevi Mattila also feels sure the company's large research and development division will secure a competitive edge over Danish suppliers - even though they are several years ahead.

"We, and many with us, feel our technical solutions are very advanced."

Fredrikshamn has also managed to make a mark this year through a different star-up. January 2008 saw the closure of Stora Enso's paper factory Summa with the loss of more than 400 jobs. US company Google has moved in to install a server park, creating some 100 new jobs with strong future potential.

Kalevi Mattila

gets an inside view of the wind turbine industry boom (picture above).


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