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Battery materials producer invests $ 160 million in former Alstom plant in Chattanooga, creating 300 jobs

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This story was updated on Tuesday June 22, 2021 at 11:55 PM with more information.

A company that develops and markets materials for the lithium-ion battery market will create nearly 300 jobs in Chattanooga as the company taps into the growing electric vehicle industry.

Novonix, the Nova Scotia, Canada-based company that opened a factory in Lookout Valley in 2019, is expected to invest around $ 160 million in the purchase and renovation of a building at the former Alstom plant. off Riverfront Parkway, officials said Tuesday.

The planned 400,000 square foot plant in Alstom’s former turbomachinery plant, often referred to as “Big Blue,” will eventually produce up to 8,000 tonnes per year of synthetic graphite, according to Novonix.

This product is used in the manufacture of high-performance, ultra-long-lasting anode materials for lithium-ion batteries, especially for electric vehicles and similar storage applications, officials said.

“I think this will be a great addition to the Alstom facility,” said Charles Wood, vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “This is about manufacturing in an industry that has a long growth curve ahead of it.”

Novonix established its anode materials business, PUREgraphite, in March 2017. Its Lookout Valley plant, where it leases space, employs approximately 35 people.

Chris Burns, chief executive of Novonix, said company officials are eager to expand their business in the expanding southeastern center of electric vehicle battery manufacturing.

He said the company “will help establish the national supply chain for key materials for the lithium-ion battery industry.”

Novonix is ​​ramping up to produce 2,000 tonnes per year of synthetic graphite, according to the company. This will include the supply of a first tranche of 500 tonnes to Samsung SDI, one of the largest manufacturers of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles in the world, the company said.

Novonix also has a non-binding agreement with Sanyo, another large battery producer, to assess the production materials for that plant, according to the company.

Wood said Novonix has yet to complete the purchase of the former Alstom property.

He said Chattanooga City Council and the Hamilton County Commission should consider the proposed incentives for the Novonix project, including possible property tax breaks. The state should also provide incentives.

Chattanooga businessman Jimmy White bought the former 112-acre Alstom property from local hotel developer Hiren Desai for $ 30 million in 2018.

White said his group Urban Story Ventures was waiting for a company like Novonix. White said the Alstom property redevelopment project, which the owners have dubbed The Bend, could bring in $ 2-3 billion in investment, add more than $ 11 million in tax revenue per year for Chattanooga. and Hamilton County and create more than 5,000 jobs. .

“It’s exciting to have an industry like this in Chattanooga. Their 290 jobs are a great addition to the more than 500 jobs we have already advertised on The Bend and to the site’s continued economic impact,” a- he said, citing a partnership with the city. , county and state.

The use of former Alstom property for manufacturing dates back more than a century as a manufacturing site for pressure vessels, tanks, fire tube and water tube boilers.

In 2007, Alstom announced plans for a new $ 300 million Chattanooga plant and built the turbine manufacturing plant.

But in 2015, GE bought out Alstom’s electrical business in France and later announced it was shutting down the turbine manufacturing plant and two adjacent facilities, cutting nearly 235 jobs in Chattanooga.

About 35 years ago, the entire manufacturing site, then owned by Combustion Engineering, had nearly 6,000 workers and was Chattanooga’s largest employer, making equipment for the production of fossil fuels and nuclear steam.

Wood said Novonix was first drawn to Chattanooga by a former Hamilton County Small Business Development Center start-up called Coulometrics, which is involved in battery research and development and battery storage. energy.

Volkswagen’s Chattanooga plant is undergoing an $ 800 million expansion to build an electric SUV next year. The battery-powered ID.4 is the world’s first EV produced by Volkswagen. It is now produced in Germany and imported to the United States until assembly begins in 2022 in Chattanooga.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.