We've been seeing more of these lately: A Florida battery manufacturer plans to expand its operations to include advanced batteries for hybrid electric vehicles.
Orlando-based Planar Energy Devices said he expansion could create hundreds of high-wage jobs while curtailing the current heavy reliance on Asian suppliers of the rechargeable batteries. The company claims its plant would be the largest of its kind outside of Asia.
Funding for the expansion was provided under the Obama administation's energy initiatives contained in the U.S. economic stimulus package. A $150 million manufacturing plant near Gainesville was closed last year after the economy tanked.
Planar CEO Scott Faris said the company has an exclusive contract to purchase an existing lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Gainesville built in 1997. "This facility is now a strategic national asset, as it is the largest rechargeable battery manufacturing facility outside of Asia," Faris said in a statement. "We can have it up and running and producing batteries in weeks, and it gives us the capability to immediately address the needs of customers, from automotive manufacturers to defense contractors, who currently rely heavily on batteries made offshore."
Planar said it also expects to double the size of its R&D staff to 50 by 2010. Total direct employment at the battery plant is expected to reach 250 workers over the next three years, and the director of Florida's energy office predicts indirect employment generated by the facility could reach 1,000 jobs by 2012.
The news from Florida is welcome on two fronts: the creation of new manufacturing jobs while reducing dependence on foreign suppliers of a key technology.
It also offers a glimmer of hope to a decimated U.S. auto industry that is grasping for any good news.