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Street Talk: Will Holland facility power new Chevy Bolt?

Getting started.

October 23, 2015
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A Big Three automaker visited its Holland lithium ion battery supplier last week and got tongues wagging about what exactly that visit might mean for the supplier’s future production.

General Motors was in town visiting LG Chem Michigan, a division of LG Chem of South Korea.

LG Chem Michigan makes lithium ion battery cells used in the Chevy Volt (first and second generation) and the Spark EV, and will be making the cells for the Cadillac CT6 come early 2016. The company also makes battery cells and packs for other automakers.

The visit was part of an announcement by GM regarding the strengthening of its strategic partnership with LG Chem.

GM revealed LG Chem and several other LG companies have been integral in the production of the new Chevy Bolt, an electric vehicle set to hit production lines by the end of next year that will have a range of 200 miles and sell for approximately $30,000 with rebates.

The Bolt will be built at the GM Orion Assembly facility.

GM and LG Chem Michigan played coy when asked whether the Bolt battery cells would be produced in the Holland facility, however.

LG Chem's Holland facility has emerged as one of North America's fastest-growing lithium-ion battery manufacturers.

In the past year, the company has doubled its workforce to 318 employees, with plans to add another 60 to 80 employees in the coming year. President Nick Kassanos said the additional employees will assist with increased Volt production and a yet-to-be-announced customer and programs.

The company also invested $25 million in the installation of more production lines earlier this summer due to its growing list of customers and products.

Kassanos said the Holland facility is being fully utilized, though he said there is some room for expansion within the existing building and also room for expansion onsite.

While electric vehicles didn’t take off as quickly as expected, GM believes its new Chevy Bolt will help move the market from early adopters to a more mainstream customer.

“There are couple of things that have to happen to make the adoption of electric vehicles accelerate: longer ranges, greater affordability and improved functionality,” said Kevin Kelly, manager, electrification technology communications for GM.

“We’ve made advances on all three of those points with the Gen 2 Volt. Now, the next advance is going to be our Chevrolet Bolt EV, which is going into production at the end of next year.”

We will be awaiting the announcement of where the Bolt’s battery cells will be produced.

Panther pride

Might the U.S. Football League’s Michigan Panthers be back — and in Grand Rapids?

A release from the group restarting the league that brought Bobby Herbert and Herschel Walker to American households suggested Grand Rapids as a prime target for one of its first eight teams.

Not so fast, says Michael Keller. Keller — a Grand Rapids native who now lives in Florida — played at the University of Michigan and spent nearly half of his career with the National Football League and in stints with startup leagues such as Vince McMahon’s XFL and the original USFL, which included Donald Trump as an owner.

Keller owns the trademarks of the USFL teams, including the Panthers.

Keller called GRBJ reporter Pat Evans, who broke the news of market interest by the fledgling league and questioned where the city would put the team.

West Michigan could support an NFL team by drawing from a 100-mile radius, Keller said, but with a smaller league and no TV revenue, how would the team make money?

The 8,000-seat Houseman Field currently looks like the most tantalizing option, but wouldn’t net the team nearly enough money through ticket sales. Keller initially commented on the grbj.com story saying, “In pro sports, facilities dictate where teams will be located.”

“The fact is, the team would have to sell between 30,000 and 45,000 tickets,” Keller said on the phone from Florida. “Everybody can talk about bringing a team to town, but until a stadium is built, it’s not going to happen. Honestly, it surprises me there hasn’t been a multi-use stadium built in Grand Rapids yet.”

It might be a chicken-or-the-egg scenario, but Keller said maybe this interest is the catalyst the city needs to build a mid-size, multi-use stadium that can house concerts and football and soccer games.

We hear Grand Action might be looking for a new project.

Hello, Founders Field at Amway Park …

Watching Muskegon

Earlier this year, community leaders and representatives from the greater Muskegon area launched a community-wide image and marketing campaign — Watch Muskegon: We’re just getting started — intended to raise awareness of the growing momentum in the northwestern lakeshore county.

At the time of its unveiling in May, Cindy Larsen, president of Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, said the cohesive message will benefit the community and is an “opportunity to wake up the residents to see Muskegon how it is today, and not to think of Muskegon as what it was like 20 years ago.”

Since then, Muskegon area officials and business representatives have: indicated significant progress on a roughly $14 million urban waterfront community along Muskegon Lake; launched an interdisciplinary professional competition in July to re-imagine and redevelop the downtown Muskegon Heights area; marketed the Wastewater Management System to promote more than 1,500 acres of available land; and welcomed the Pearl Mist, an approximately 335-foot-long, 210-passenger cruise ship to the Mart Dock, among other announcements.

The Muskegon Farmers Market also received $75,000 in grant funding in early October from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Farmers Market Promotion Program. With the funding, the farmers market plans to expand its Power of Produce Club, a program empowering children to make healthy choices.

Renae Hesselink, project manager of Power of Produce, and Lori Gomez-Payne, market master, said the program attracts both the kids and their parents and it “becomes a family affair.” The funding also will be used to launch a marketing campaign, provide technical assistance for farmers and facilitate a winter farmers market.

More recently, Muskegon Area Promise officials were given the green light for a Promise Zone development plan to roll out its first phase of the Promise Scholarship program for high school graduates in three districts in the county. By the third year of the program, the plan is to offer scholarship awards to eligible students in all of the county’s high schools.

John Severson, superintendent at Muskegon Area Intermediate School District, said the approval from the Michigan Department of Treasury is not only an opportunity to help kids with their educational futures but also supports economic development in communities.

“With a Promise, the population and economic activity grows, students become more serious about high school and their grades improve,” said Severson. “Students are more likely to enroll and persist in college, and it is truly a game-changer for our entire area, for a whole county. … It has great capacity to improve outcomes for our region.”

Just getting started, indeed!

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