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Jamie McKinney’s number one priority when her employer — a manufacturer of snowmobiles and ATVs — had to shut its factory’s doors in South Dakota was to make sure she could find a job close to home so she could take care of her family. She also wanted a job in an industry that wasn’t going to leave her hanging again. Luckily, Knight & Carver Wind Group came to Howard, S.D., looking for workers.

“I didn’t want to have to worry about the doors being shut again like they were with making a luxury, fun item where those things are out the door during a tough economy,” Jamie, now a safety coordinator, says. “With wind, it’s a renewable energy source, so it feels like an industry ready for growth.”

Knight & Carver is known for building yachts, but the 21st century brought with it a need for innovation and adaptation. The company’s expertise with the fiberglass used in boats has allowed it to develop wind turbine blades, meaning it expanded during the recession, hiring new employees and conducting important research and development for products such as the Sweep Twist Adaptive Rotor.

The STAR blade design was developed from 2005 to 2008 in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind and Hydropower Technologies program and the Sandia National Laboratory. The blade is curved in a way that better takes advantage of all wind speeds, and it’s expected to increase energy capture by as much as 10 percent once commercialized.

Despite the economic downturn that’s still fresh in the minds of many Americans, Knight & Carver has managed to grow and increase its annual revenue, helping demonstrate why renewable energy is a proven economic stimulus for people like Jamie and Americans everywhere.