Battery parts maker chooses Battle Creek

2:44 PM, Feb 20, 2010   |    comments
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(Elizabeth Willis, Battle Creek Enquirer) - It's official. A lithium-ion battery parts supplier announced that it intends to build a $70.1 million plant expected to create 50 to 60 new jobs in Battle Creek at an average weekly wage of $893.

The official word hung on a few key investments and agreements needed to move the project forward. But the Battle Creek Tax Increment Finance Authority approved a development agreement with Toda America Inc., a subsidiary of Toda Kogyo Corp. in Japan.

BCTIFA also approved a 12-year lease agreement with Toda America for about 18 acres in the city's Fort Custer Industrial Park where site cleanup is already under way.

Toda America has been supplying lithium-ion components for cell phone and computer batteries for decades, but this will be its first plant to develop materials for vehicle batteries in the United States, said Toda consultant David Han, president of Ann Arbor-based Turtlerock Greentech.

"This is a major move for Toda, a major investment and substantial risk-taking on the part of Toda to choose to make a very substantial investment in the United States for the first time," Han said.

The Japanese company has invested $100 million into the venture with annual revenues of only $300,000 to $400,000, Han said.

Toda America plans to build its Battle Creek manufacturing plant to produce cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries used in hybrid vehicles. The 186-year-old company began in Japan making pigments and it continues to be a global leader in solid state chemistry of advanced materials like high-quality iron oxides and other inorganic compounds.

Han said Toda America selected Battle Creek because of its proximity to customers and to its plant in Sarnia, Ontario, across the bridge from Port Huron.

"There were many states that were very interested in Toda locating in their state, and within the state of Michigan there were many sites, many communities interested," he said.

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