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Renewables: America's next heavy industry

Renewables: America's next heavy industryHow three manufacturers in three Midwest states are picking up where the

auto sector is laying off.(By Steve Hargreaves via CNNMoney.com)MINSTER, OHIO - About 200 miles south of Detroit, America's industrial

heartland gives way to the Ohio countryside.Here lies the tiny town of Minster, off I-75 past the Ford factory, the

Mazda factory, the Jeep factory and the massive coal and nuclear plants

that keep them all running.Surrounded by farms, a family-run manufacturer is getting in on the

business everyone from President Obama on down hopes will clear the air,

wean the country off imported energy, and replace the fast-disappearing

auto jobs: Making parts for the burgeoning renewable energy sector.For the last two years, the Minster Machine Company has been forging the

giant cast-iron hubs that keep the blades attached to the center of a wind

turbine."The wind market for us was a diversification strategy," said John Winch,

who followed his father, grandfather and great-grandfather in helming the

103-year old company. Minster Machine also makes the equiptment that make

the parts for the auto, medical and food industries, among others.But it's more than just a diversification strategy. It's a bet that the

market for renewable energy products will take off.Because Minster Machine has skilled metal workers, its own foundry and a

huge factory floor, making the hubs for wind turbines and other large wind

components is an ideal area for the company to get into.Minster Machine hopes to use all this, and proximity to wind farms on the

Great Plains to expand, and that could mean more jobs. Wages at the company

start at $17.50 an hour and go up from there."The renewable energy market could be akin to an industrial revolution-type

event," said Winch. "We want to be in that space."So do a lot of other firms.Putting people to workScores of firms in the renewable energy business have recently opened in

the Rust Belt states. They hope to take advantage of a population known for

its industrial skills, engineering ability and work ethic.It's hard to say how many people these firms currently employ. The

government doesn't yet track green jobs and the distinction between what's

"green" and what isn't often gets blurred.One study by the University of California, Berkeley estimated that green

energy companies employ at least half a million people. That number could

climb to 2 to 4 million over the next 15 years if the nation got 15%-20% of

its power from renewable sources.If those job numbers materialize on the high end of estimates, the nation's

total manufacturing workforce would get boosted by about 25%.In the Midwest, it's clear that local officials have high hopes for the

industry."We very optimistic and very confident that this is a whole new industry

and can be a key part of our economic development strategy," said Ohio's

Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher.There's certainly a lot of room to grow.Sizing up the industryWith fewer subsidies compared to Europe, the United States failed to

attract many renewable energy manufacturers over the last few decades. Many

experts say the country lags behind in this emerging space.While the wide swath of land from Texas to North Dakota is one of the best

places in the world to produce electricity from wind, more than 50% of the

parts used in U.S. wind turbines are imported, according to Ed Weston,

director of the Cleveland-based Great Lakes Wind Network.With each turbine containing over 8,000 parts, that could represent a lot

of jobs."This is craft work. These are the manufacturing trades coming back to

life," said Weston. "This is not unskilled labor at all."It may not be unskilled labor, but some studies suggest these new green

jobs don't pay nearly as much as some of the jobs they are replacing, like

union auto jobs.Many green jobs pay only $11 or $12 an hour, according to Philip Mattera,

research director at Good Jobs First, a labor-friendly