The operational date of a large Mitsubishi assembly plant at Chaffee Crossing near Fort Smith is “under review” and could be delayed based on the outcome of legal rulings, according to a Mitsubishi spokeswoman.
Mitsubishi Power Systems Americas (MPSA) announced on Oct. 16, 2009, plans to build a $100 million, 200,000-square foot wind turbine manufacturing plant on 90 acres at Fort Chaffee. The plant could employ up to 400 once fully operational. Company officials said construction will start in the fourth quarter of 2010 and be complete by the fourth quarter of 2011. Mitsubishi officials expect full production and 400 jobs in place by the first quarter of 2012.
But that date is uncertain, according to this update from KFSM 5 News on the ongoing legal battle between Mitsubishi and General Electric.
“Since Mitsubishi broke ground on its $100 million plant in Fort Smith, the company remains on time and on budget to create its first wind turbine nacelle-manufacturing plant outside of Japan. In the interim, however, the ongoing GE-Mitsubishi litigation over wind turbine patents continues to be reviewed by the courts,” Sonia Williams noted in e-mail to KFSM 5 News reporter Jared Broyles.
Williams said the company is waiting on a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Also, a lawsuit GE filed against Mitsubishi in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas is “active and proceeding,” Williams explained.
“Against the backdrop of these court actions a final decision on the production start date at the Fort Smith plant is still under review. As a result, while Mitsubishi continues to pursue new wind turbine sales opportunities the company will shift a handful of its personnel in Fort Smith to temporary duties elsewhere until such time as production commences,” Williams wrote.
Concerns that the legal dispute could impact the work and employment at Fort Chaffee were first publicized in December 2009.
In January 2010, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in a complaint filed by General Electric against Mitsubishi. The GE complaint was first filed Feb. 7, 2008, in which GE claimed Mitsubishi is in violation of the Tariff Act of 1930 for importing “certain variable speed wind turbines and components” that infringe upon GE patent holdings.
In May 2010, Mitsubishi officials strongly hinted that legal problems with GE could negatively impact the company’s Fort Smith operation.
According to the Mitsubishi complaint filed in May with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas: “In 2006, Mitsubishi gained a foothold in the U.S. market after securing significant contracts for the sale of variable speed wind turbines. Faced with this emerging competitive threat, GE embarked on an unlawful scheme the U.S. market.. … GE’s unlawful scheme has worked. Prior to the initiation of GE’ s first lawsuit against Mitsubishi, Mitsubishi had sales of approximately $2 billion per year of variable speed wind turbines in the United States. Since GE’s litigation campaign began over two years ago, Mitsubishi has not sold a single variable speed wind turbine in the United States.”
GE said in May 2010 that the Mitsubishi claims are “meritless and outrageous,” and the company “stands strongly behind the merits of its patent infringement lawsuits against MHI and will fight to protect its intellectual property.”
In August 2010, U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes ruled that Mitsubishi Power Systems may proceed with its lawsuit against GE. However, Holmes’ ruling temporarily halted action on the case until a patent infringement case is resolved.
Michael Tilley with our content partner, The City Wire, is the author of this report. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.