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Joachim Fuhrländer reassured business leaders that if his company expands into the U.S. market, its first factory will be located in Butte.

When and if that will come to fruition, however, remains unknown.

A small contingent of representatives from the German windturbine company flew with Gov. Brian Schweitzer to the Mining City last week, where they ate lunch at the Chamber of Commerce, then toured the 40-acre site, about 10 miles southwest of Butte, that could one day be home to the factory that builds the turbines.

Joachim, the company chairman, said that the wind energy industry is "exploding" in this country and that the U.S. supply chain is catching up to their European competitors.

"We are here to promise again (we will come) to Butte," he told the audience.

He said the location, the workforce and the personal relationship he has developed with Schweitzer made Butte his choice for a U.S. plant.

He did not wish to be interviewed on specifics, however, citing language barriers.

Local business leaders cajoled the visitors by noting the benefits of locating here, especially the crossroads of Interstates 15 and 90, two railroads, Montana Tech and the Foreign Trade Zone status of the Tax Increment Financing Industrial District, or TIFID.

Butte Local Development Corp. director Jim Smitham presented a preliminary idea of local contributions to the projects, which could include $500,000 in Hard Rock Mining money and millions more in infrastructure improvements.

Gov. Schweitzer and members of his economic development team explained state and federal programs for which Fuhrländer could qualify, including workforce training grants.

Schweitzer said he has been in contact with the company for years, well before it decided on Butte in 2008. But soon after that decision, world economic problems reared up, pushing back the project time-frame.

Schweitzer said he stayed confident, however, that the turbine plant would move forward.

"There wasn't much else I could do but make Montana the best place to do business," he said.

The governor noted that the plant could have a huge impact on the state, with offshoot suppliers and other manufacturers sprouting up to work in conjunction with the turbines. In 2008, the plant was pegged to cost $25 million to build and would employ 150 people.

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