John Purcell is the Vice President of the Energy Division at Leeco Steel.
“We will put new American metal into the spine of this nation. It will be American hands that rebuild this country, and it will be American energy – mined from American sources – that powers this country.”
So said Donald Trump in a recent speech before the Detroit Economic Club.
As someone who’s worked in the steel industry for over 25 years, this caught my attention. I know a thing or two about “American metal,” and I can tell you firsthand Mr. Trump left out a big part of our country’s energy story: wind farms mining world-class wind resources, using machines built with the hands of American workers.
Many of them are at the site of Mr. Trump’s speech, Michigan, which continues its tradition of making the products needed to move the U.S. forward. Today, Michigan has 26 factories that build wind-related parts, and wind has attracted over $3 billion into the local economy. Up to 2,000 Michiganders have well-paying jobs in wind power, a number that will grow higher as American wind energy continues its progress.
Supplying plate steel for wind turbines has become a big part of my company’s business. With that new business comes new jobs, economic activity and resources for communities throughout the U.S.
But with nearly 50,000 wind turbines and counting across the nation, it’s not just steelworkers who are needed. The impacts of this homegrown energy source reverberate throughout a long, productive supply chain.
With thousands of parts, wind turbines need a complex variety of bolts, wires, gears and lubricants. They use sophisticated computer systems, and turbine blades are a high-tech mixture of lightweight but durable fiberglass, carbon fiber and other elements. Workers with both cutting-edge and traditional craftsman skills are needed to create all of these parts. American hands are up to this task.
Once a project is generating electricity, wind technicians perform necessary and preventative maintenance. With so many new turbines coming online, it’s no surprise wind technician is the country’s fastest growing job according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, expected to increase by 108 percent over the next decade.
How can we measure this economic impact? Wind energy has attracted $128 billion of private investment into the U.S. economy over the last decade, higher average yearly revenue than the National Football League or Major League Baseball.
Wind power related jobs grew by 20 percent in 2015, a rate not many industries can match. At the start of 2016, a record-high 88,000 Americans worked in wind energy. Over 20,000 of these jobs can be found at more than 500 factories across 43 states.
Citizens across the country are recognizing these benefits—91 percent of likely voters support expanding wind power. This includes true bipartisan support, with over 80 percent of self-described conservatives favoring wind energy expansion.
So politicians who want to revitalize the economy should pay attention to this American success story. It’s already creating opportunities for a generation of workers across the country, and voters are signaling they like what they see.