Universal Wind Power, which stepped away from a South Worcester land deal for a temporary Auburn headquarters and Devens-based partnership with Coghlin Companies’ Columbia Tech, intends to hire military veterans for 80 percent of its Worcester-area workforce when plans for production of the firm’s energy-producing, vertical axis turbines are crystallized.
That could mean jobs, training and potentially benefits for some 80 former service men and women. Universal Wind Power owner and CEO Rafael Mayor said he plans to hire at least 100 people once he finds a permanent home base. And he still has eyes on the Seven Hills.
“We want to hire people directly from Worcester. We’ve been really looking for ex-military vets here in Worcester more so than anything else. It’s something that [is] in our hearts and in the hearts of a lot of people in our company,” Mayor said in an interview on May 23.
Columbia Tech, a contracting arm of the Coghlin group, is planning to build systems and control panels for Universal Wind Power’s first three large (100 kilowatt hours per month) turbines. Mayor said the company is working toward a deal with Massport, and one of the initial turbines could be cited at Worcester Regional Airport.
Universal Wind Power has been doing research and development in New England the past five years. “We kept coming back and forth [from Colorado]. We put monitors up and we’ve been keeping a close eye on them [the monitors],” Mayor said.
“New England’s got the best wind for our type of system.”
Jennifer Mehigan, Massport assistant director of media relations, did not return a call Tuesday, May 31, seeking comment (Director Matthew Brelis is unavailable until June 8). Coghlin Companies also did not respond to media requests last week.
Federal programs, such as the Special Employer Incentive [SEI], reimburse employers who hire military veterans up to half the veteran’s salary and instruction expenses, and any business that hires veterans receives a permanent tax credit.
“I think it would be wonderful. That’s a lot of jobs. I think it’s great, but I would have to wonder if it’s full-time employment or part-time jobs, and whether or not it’s going to provide benefits,” said William H. Moore, executive director and president of Project New Hope, a nonprofit in Worcester focused on assisting veterans’ transition to civilian life.
“If [Universal Wind Power] came in and were able to hire that many veterans it would have a an incredible impact on the veterans in [the] community and the area,” said Jason Palitsch, government and public affairs specialist for Veterans Inc. in Worcester.
Moore, a disabled Air Force veteran, said finding jobs for veterans is a problem.
“Employment is one of the barriers for veterans,” Moore said.
“I think it would be fantastic,” Palistch said. “The overall mission for Veterans Inc. is to put veterans that might be in need into long-term sustainable living situations. When we try to place veterans in jobs, we want to place them into careers.”
“There’s a lot of benefits to hiring veterans. This isn’t a new thing that companies do,” Moore said. “With companies like [Universal Wind Power] in a growing market with the renewable energy business, it provides consistent work for veterans and they will make good money, which is what we are always looking for.”
Mayor and Universal Wind Power had negotiations with the city to purchase a 1.8-acre parcel in South Worcester Industrial Park [SWIP], but decided to make the deal with Columbia Tech.
“[Columbia Tech] gave us an offer that was almost impossible to refuse,” Mayor said. “For the time being, that stopped us looking at building something in the [SWIP].”
Mayor said once he receives approval from Massport the other two initial turbines would be located at Logan Airport and in Haverhill, and could be installed within 90 days. He expects Columbia Tech to be finished construction in August.
“Right now, we’re trying to get everything together with Columbia Tech. As soon as we can get everything worked out with them — we’re almost there — we can start building our first unit and have all three units up within 90 days. That’s our goal.”
Universal Wind Power’s vertical wind turbines are customized with diverting wind panels to speed up wind power by 30 percent.
Mayor said Universal Wind Power will be visiting Washington, D.C. early this month, to present its wind turbine units to three branches of the military.
“There’s nothing else like it in the world and we are the ones that have it,” Mayor said.