Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stimulus helping Charlotte 'green' its business sector

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 10:27 AM

The energy industry is getting a makeover. The U.S. needs to lead the way to remain competitive in the global market, and Charlotte's ready to lead the charge.

The $787 billion stimulus package the Obama administration put together this year includes about $70 billion in grants and tax breaks for the energy industry — almost all of it directed at clean-energy companies. The Charlotte region, hungry for growth in the sector, has already received significant grants from the clean-energy programs in the bill.

The largest was the $42.9 million awarded to Celgard, a local subsidiary of Charlotte-based Polypore International Inc. That will help Celgard beef up production of membranes used in lithium batteries to power electric vehicles.

That effort will create 200 jobs. Celgard has payroll of 300 at its plant on Carowinds Boulevard. But it’s not clear whether all the new jobs will be in the region. The company intends to use the stimulus funding to help build a second plant, but Mitch Pulwer, general manager, says Celgard has not decided on a site.

Chemetall Foote Corp. in Kings Mountain, a division of Germany-based Chemetall, will also be working on batteries for electric vehicles, using a $28.4 million grant.

The funds will be part of a $56 million investment in expanding Chemetall’s lithium-production facilities.

Tim McKenna, spokesman, says about 60% of the total will be spent in Kings Mountain.

Both companies are already major players in the lithium-battery market. Chemetall produces about a third of the lithium for batteries worldwide. And Celgard is a major supplier for membranes used in batteries for cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and other common products.

But both see the nascent electric-vehicle business as a major new market. That could mean more growth in Kings Mountain and Charlotte down the line.

Read the entire Charlotte Business Journal article here.

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