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FloDesign wins finance package for its wind turbine company

Date: 4/26/2010

April 26, 2010

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

WILBRAHAM -- FloDesign Inc., a Main Street-based contract engineering design company serving the aerospace industry, recently received a $3 million state-sponsored financing package to expand operations at its subsidiary company, FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp.

Founded in 2007, FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp. is a commercial entity with a patent for an innovative wind turbine design.

Based on jet engine technology, the company's wind turbine design is expected to deliver more than three times the amount of energy as traditional wind turbines of the same size. FloDesign's product can also be mounted on shorter towers than traditional turbine designs.

"It's truly a fundamental breakthrough in wind energy," Stanley Kowalski III, vice president, founder and chairman of the board of FloDesign Inc told Reminder Publications.

The financing package, approved by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), includes a five-year $700,000 forgivable loan, a $600,000 convertible grant and $1.7 million from MassCEC's Renewable Energy Trust for use in defraying the cost of FloDesign Wind Turbine Corp.'s first product installations at a state or local public site.

According to press material, the forgivable loan is contingent upon FloDesign Wind Turbine "creating or retaining 150 jobs in the next three years and maintaining those jobs for an additional two years," and the turbines are to be manufactured in Massachusetts.

Some of those jobs will be added in Waltham, Mass, where FloDesign Wind Turbine has announced it plans to open a corporate headquarters in the recently renovated Watch Factory complex.

"We're about 29 people [right now] and we're going to be growing in both locations," FloDesign Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Matt Commons said. He added that the plan is to "create and maintain" a total of 150 jobs between the two locations.

"It's moving the product development," Kowalski said. "The research and development [arm of FloDesign] will stay in Wilbraham."

When asked why FloDesign chose the Waltham location for its expansion over a similar office space at Open Square in Holyoke, Commons said it was a question of talent.

"We're trying to grow our engineering talent and it's a bigger talent pool [out there]," Commons said.

"We're recruiting from all over the world, and recruiters have an easier time bringing people into Boston than Springfield," Kowalski said, adding that FloDesign had just brought on board a new CEO, Lars A. Andersen, who previously headed up Vestas China, the country's largest wind turbine producer, and Switzerland's Generation Inc.

Commons reiterated, however, that the parent company, FloDesign, was founded in Wilbraham in 1990 and "still has deep roots in Western Massachusetts and we continue to grow in Western Mass."

The company, which was co-founded by Dr. Walter M. Prez Jr., professor emeritus of Western New England College (WNEC), Dr. Michael J. Werle and Kowalski, still has close ties to WNEC. Prez and Werle hold the patent on the FloDesign wind turbine. Many of the employees at the Wilbraham facility, Commons said, were former interns from WNEC.

In 2008, FloDesign Wind Turbine won the MIT Clean Energy Entrepreneurship prize and the Ignite Clean Energy competition. In 2009 it was awarded an $8.3 million grant as part of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency.

To date the company has raised over $40 million in venture capital.

"We won't stop. You're going to see our growth become exponential," Kowalski said of FloDesign Wind Turbine. "We're going to be deploying [our wind turbine design] in every continent all over the world in the next five years."