NAATBatt announcement may be made today

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By John Friedlein

By JOHN FRIEDLEIN jfriedlein@thenewsenterprise.com

The fate of an electric car battery factory proposed for Glendale could become clearer today.

The Obama Administration is expected to make an announcement about federal stimulus grants aimed at bolstering domestic production, according to news reports.

National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries — a non-profit consortium of more than 50 companies — has picked the Glendale Industrial Site for its factory and headquarters. The project, which would create roughly 2,000 jobs and probably off-shoot businesses, may depend on stimulus funding.

The Department of Energy — the agency administering the grants — on Tuesday provided few details in an e-mail but said electric vehicle battery grants would be discussed.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden both plan appearances in Indiana and Michigan for around lunchtime to address the matter along with the economy in general.

An anonymous congressional spokesman on Monday confirmed to the The Associated Press that “battery research grants” would be announced during Biden’s visit to Detroit.

And an Obama spokesman said the president will announce “grants for advanced battery and electric vehicle manufacturing” in Wakarusa, Ind., according to the Indianapolis Star.

NAATBatt is one of 122 companies competing for funds from a pool of $2 billion. The DOE has said a list of winners would be released within the next few weeks.

The Detroit News reported Biden would announce a “first round” of grants.

James J. Greenberger, co-founder of NAATBatt said he is disappointed the announcement isn’t going to be made in Kentucky. But Detroit is a logical place for it because of its auto industry ties, he said.

Also, up to half of the money may end up in Michigan, he said, and it would be disappointing if it ends up being more than that.

NAATBatt’s chances are “still pretty good,” Greenberger said. And if it isn’t awarded money this time, it may receive funds during a second round. The consortium, which would produce lithium-ion battery cells, has asked for between $300 million and $400 million.

The Glendale campus, the economic impact of which has compared to the Toyota plant in Georgetown, is expected to cost about $600 million. The state has promised $200 million in incentives such as infrastructure development.

Greenberger in May guessed that — within the competition for $2 billion — three to five applicants will receive funding from a pool of possibly $1.2 billion.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the consortium had not been invited to attend a funding announcement. “It’ll be an interesting day, to say the least,” Greenberger said.

Kentucky officials do not plan to attend the Michigan event, according to the Cabinet for Economic Development.

“Our understanding is that this is the first round of grants,” according to a statement from the agency. “This is a competitive process and we expect multiple grants to be announced. We remain hopeful given the strength of the application from the consortium that we are supporting.”

John Friedlein can be reached at 505-1746.