LG Chem brings jobs

February 5, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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LG Chem Ltd. brought a lot to West Michigan in 2010 in the way of good news, excitement and visitors — including the president of the United States.

In July, President Barack Obama was in Holland to greet the CEO and other officials of LG Chem, Korea's largest chemical and rechargeable battery maker, at the groundbreaking of its $303 million lithium-ion battery plant.

Adding to the excitement was word of orders for electrical vehicle batteries from Ford Motor Co. and Eaton Corp. The 650,000-square-foot plant, which will be occupied by LG Chem’s wholly owned Michigan subsidiary, Compact Power Inc. of Troy, is already scheduled to supply battery cells for the Chevrolet Volt.

Compact Power is investing $151 million in the plant, along with a matching grant it received from the U.S. Department of Energy under the Recovery Act Award for the Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative. The plant is expected to create from 300 to 400 new jobs by 2013.

Just two weeks ago, Grand Rapids Community College approved a $19.6 million Michigan New Jobs Training Program Agreement between the college’s Office of Economic Development & Training Solutions, and LG Chem.

“This partnership represents our largest Michigan New Jobs project to date, and confirms the important role we continue to play in training West Michigan’s work force,” said GRCC president Steven Ender. “Our agreement with LG Chem demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the manufacturing and business communities: GRCC is here to help prepare workers for these types of highly specialized jobs.”

The full amount of the agreement is $19,630,500, which will be used for training workers over 20 years.

“One of the benefits of the MNJTP is that funding is tied to true new job creation in the state of Michigan; it’s a solid investment on our part and for all of West Michigan,” said Ender.

The GRCC announcement noted that as many as 3,000 jobs may be generated at the plant over the 20-year period of the training grant. The college plans to start right away, even training some employees before the plant is in operation.

As part of the agreement, GRCC faculty and staff will work with industry experts to design the training to meet the needs of the advanced energy storage industry. 

“We’re working diligently to have everything in place to begin training for LG Chem for these specialized positions,” said Mary Hofstra, GRCC’s senior program manager in work force training.

“This is an exciting opportunity and a milestone for West Michigan. We’re thrilled to be a big part of it,” said Julie Parks, GRCC’s director of work force training.

According to the Lakeshore Advantage economic development organization, the Compact Power plant will produce enough cells for 50,000 to 200,000 vehicle battery packs per year.

The site is located on 120 acres near South Waverly Road and East 48th Street, less than two miles from the Johnson Controls battery plant also under construction.

In addition to federal incentives, LG Chem received an incentive package from the state of Michigan that included a $100 million advanced battery cell tax credit, a 15-year job-creation tax credit worth $25.2 million, and a Renaissance Zone designation approved by the city of Holland.

LG Chem Ltd. had 2009 revenue of $13.6 billion.

At the groundbreaking ceremonies, Peter Bahn-Suk Kim, vice chairman and CEO of LG Chem Ltd., said it was “a special day for us.” He predicted the plant will help “lead the way toward the electrification of vehicles.”

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