Grant to help Fortu PowerCell battery project

March 13, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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MUSKEGON COUNTY — Transportation grants announced for Muskegon County by Sen. Geoff Hansen, R-Hart, include $538,000 for reconstruction and widening of roads leading to the Bayer CropScience property at 1740 Whitehall Road, where Fortu PowerCell is planning to break ground this year on a $623 million advanced battery plant.

Fortu PowerCell is a Swiss-German subsidiary of Fortu Holding AG of Basel, Switzerland, which is commercializing a new, rechargeable lithium battery technology based on a proprietary, nonflammable electrolyte. The large battery cells will be used in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles, and in large, stationary electrical storage systems.

Henry (Hank) Teschendorf has been named vice president of operations at the Fortu plant that will be built at the Bayer CropScience industrial park. He has nearly 30 years of experience in chemical engineering and has previously served in management at the Bayer CropScience facility.

“Hank is highly respected for the wealth of experience he brings in chemicals related to manufacturing, making him exactly the experienced, safe pair of hands we need to launch our new factory,” said Fortu president/CEO Alan Greenshields. “From our first visit to the Bayer plant in Muskegon several years ago when Hank was there, we were impressed with his professionalism and calm, competent leadership. We also appreciated the good team spirit Hank built there and want him to build the same for Fortu.”

Teschendorf most recently was vice president of operations at Bayer CropScience in Institute, W. Va., which employs 225 people. Prior to that, he was site director at Bayer’s Muskegon Township factory from 2005 to 2009, and at Bayer’s St. Louis, Mo., factory from 1996 to 2004.

“Not only do I have great confidence in the technology Fortu has developed and the company’s approach to business, I am eager to return home to the Muskegon community, where I know many good people. (It) is a perfect opportunity for my wife and I to return to beautiful West Michigan,” said Teschendorf.

Fortu has retained the Sidock Group of Muskegon for design and engineering of the plant project.

According to Debra Muchmore, a spokesperson for Fortu, it will be a two-phase construction project. The first phase, a 100,000-square-foot facility, has been approved by Muskegon Township officials and will commenced at an as-yet unspecified date this year.

Muchmore said it will be built adjacent to the Bayer plant, “where like facilities are co-located and synergies maximized.”

Ed Garner of Muskegon Area First has said the second phase will be much larger, perhaps in the range of a one-million-square-foot facility.

One year ago the Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved Michigan Battery Cell Manufacturing and High Technology state tax credits that will be worth $112 million in the future, to induce Fortu to locate its new battery plant in Muskegon County. Fortu has said it expects to create more than 700 new jobs at the site over the next several years.

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