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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

February 5, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Inslee seeks to lure struggling Massachussetts wind-power firm

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

Inslee hinted at the effort at the start of his first news conference on Jan. 17, saying his first act as governor was to write a letter to the CEO of a clean-energy company looking at a possible move to Washington.

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

But Inslee’s office released a copy of his letter Tuesday after a public disclosure request from The Seattle Times.

The brief note reveals Inslee’s target is AMSC, formerly known as American Superconductor, a wind-power company that has faced serious financial struggles in recent years. The company, which makes control systems for wind turbines and touts hyper-efficient new cables for the electrical grid, is currently based in Devens, Mass.

In his handwritten Jan. 16 note to AMSC CEO Daniel McGahn, Inslee wrote he’d just taken the oath of office 45 minutes earlier and that 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 his news conference, Inslee suggested the firm was actively considering a move to Washington, saying it was “looking to re-establish and consolidate both their headquarters and manufacturing facility.” Inslee added that he’d spoken with the the company’s CEO and was told AMSC was “looking for a state that really embraced the policies that want to lead us to a clean energy future” and was “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 Inslee’s previous statements, representatives for the governor and for AMSC on Tuesday downplayed the prospects of the company moving here.

Jaime Smith, the governor’s spokeswoman, said in an email that 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.”

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 has been embroiled in a major lawsuit with a Chinese company it claims stole its technology by paying off a former AMSC employee.

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Comments | More in Governor, homepage | Topics: American Superconductor, AMSC, gov. jay inslee

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