Focused on Renewable Energy
“Environmentally it makes a lot of sense for our country to move away from dependence on foreign oil. It makes perfect economic sense as well,” says Demmer, president and CEO of Demmer Corporation.
Demmer, which has seven plants in Michigan with six of those in the Lansing area, is a stamping, tooling, fabrication and assembly company with 1,600,000 square feet of manufacturing floor space and nearly 1,200 employees. The company’s headquarters is located within Demmer’s north Lansing facility, which sets along N. Larch St. just north of Downtown Lansing.
The company, which was founded by John Demmer in 1951 with a focus on building tools and dies for the auto industry, now focuses on aerospace, energy, transportation and military, too.
The biggest opportunity for Demmer Corporation going forward is the development of wind energy technology, Demmer says. He envisions a day within five years when mass production of wind turbines, suitable for the individual farm or small business to use as supplemental energy, will become a major focus of his business.
“We want to become a manufacturer and integrator of these new units. We have worked with Vestas and talked to the people at Siemens about it. It’s not a major part of our business yet, and it’s a major challenge, but we believe there is huge opportunity.”
Vestas, a global company that manufactures wind turbines, estimates that modern energy accounts for less than 2 percent of the world’s electricity production, but expects that number to rise to 10 percent by 2020. It’s those kinds of estimates that excite Demmer about future production capabilities.
“Our role will be to work with the developer of the technology to refine the componentry that we could manufacture at our facilities right here in Lansing. We see the eventuality of mass production of these wind units.”
Demmer, who also is tapping the alternative energy expertise of researchers at his alma mater, said the move to green will require additional tax incentives and support for businesses willing to take risk to pursue green opportunities.
“There is always political and economic risk in pursuing new cutting-edge opportunities. However, as the technology and efficiencies keep improving and as the market hits the level when a company can mass produce thousands instead of just hundreds of these wind units, we want to be ready to move forward quickly,” Demmer says.
Jeff Metts, president of Dowding Industries, can see a green wave of manufacturing opportunities coming for his company and others willing to face the inevitable.
“This country needs to embrace alternative energy sources. We have moved into green manufacturing in a big way. We have put up a new building for development of wind power components, purchased new machinery for green manufacturing. It is becoming a big part of our business and I think we’ll see even more of it,” Metts says.
Metts’ passion for alternative energy development at Dowding, a company that specializes in heavy equipment, rail, automotive and wind energy components, has thrust him into the role of pioneering Michigan’s drive for renewable energy. He even served on Gov. Granholm’s Green Energy Task Force through the end of 2010.
“Everyone always thought that energy is energy and we all know where that comes from. Well, it turns out most of these energy processes are subsidized and you don’t realize any gain or drop in the cost of a kilowatt. Turns out wind and solar have some real benefits,” Metts emphasizes.
Dowding Industries has been very active in advancing the manufacturing technology that will be needed to produce wind energy components. It launched an affiliated company last year, Astraeus Wind Power LLC, to specifically pursue advanced manufacturing of equipment to machine cast components and construct carbon fiber components for the wind energy industry.
Astraeus is a partnership between Dowding Industries and MAG Industrial Automation Systems. Metts, who serves as president of the new company, said Astraeus is focused on the automated manufacturing of wind turbine blade components using advanced materials. Astraeus is working with Dow Chemical Co. and Oak Ridge National Laboratory on the project.
Dowding Industries has 180 employees at its facilities in Eaton Rapids. Meanwhile, Astraeus will begin hiring in 2011 once new machinery is delivered and put in place, Metts says.
Astraeus received a $7 million grant from the federal government in 2010 to build a machine to produce wind turbine hubs. Metts says the new machine, which was still being assembled late last year, will reduce production time from 24 hours to 4 ½ hours. Once the hub machine is completed the company will begin work on a machine to do large castings of wind turbine blades.
“This is really a team effort to advance the technology and manufacturing process of building wind turbines. The results will be less energy to make the turbines and at less cost to erect them,” Metts adds.Dowding Industries, which was founded in 1965 in Eaton Rapids by Maurice (Skip) Dowding, has two dedicated facilities for stamping and sheet metal fabrication. Dowding Machining LLC, another affiliated company that does precision machining, opened a new 35,000-square-foot machining facility there in 2008.