President to visit Vacon’s Research Triangle Park site

Jan. 15, 2014 @ 06:36 AM

President Barack Obama will visit the Research Triangle Park-based research and development site of an electric motor parts company on Wednesday before traveling to N.C. State University to deliver a speech about the economy.

A White House official confirmed Tuesday that he’s slated to visit Vacon Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of a Finland-based company that makes and sells devices that control the speed of electric motors.

Called AC drives, the devices are used in pumps, fans, elevators, escalators, conveyors, compressors, and in wind and solar power plants.

Vacon’s U.S. subsidiary launched in 2008, and is based in Wisconsin. The company also has a factory in Pennsylvania and offices in Tennessee and Texas. Across the country, the company has more than 100 employees.

The site in the Research Triangle Park employs fewer than 20 people, said Dan Isaksson, a vice president at Vacon.

In seeking a location for the new research and development center, Isaksson said the company wanted a place where it could find “highly competent engineers.”

 “We looked around, and we decided that the main criterion for us was: (where) can we find highly competent engineers?” he said. “This is quite a niche area. There are no huge clusters in the world. So we thought this would be a good area for (us) possibly to collaborate with universities and competent suppliers…”

Isaksson said the site is devoted to the development of medium-voltage AC drives, which can operate a higher power levels. He said they can be used in mine conveyors, or offshore wind power or ship propulsion equipment.

According to a news release from the company, Vacon expected its first deliveries of medium-voltage AC drives this year.

Sebastian Linko, Vacon’s director of corporate communications and investor relations, said Vacon officials sought competent workers, an innovative atmosphere and possibilities to collaborate with other companies and the public sector.

“We had some expectations when we decided to set up the R&D center here,” he said. “The expectations have been met, let’s put it this way.”

Vacon brought in $531 million in revenues in 2012, and had 1,500 employees around the world. Its largest customers included Eaton, Honeywell and Schindler.