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Biden On Hand As Dow Breaks Ground For Battery Plant

Ground was broken Monday on an advanced battery manufacturing facility expected to create hundreds of jobs and, according to Vice President Joe Biden, boost a U.S. energy production "revolution."'

Biden was on hand for Monday's ceremony in Midland, where the Dow Kokam plant will be built.

The plant will make lithium-ion battery packs for hybrid and electric vehicles, and will provide 700 to 800 "green-collar jobs'' and hundreds more for construction workers.

Officials say the batteries can store up to three times more energy than the nickel metal hydride batteries currently used in most hybrids.

"This is the beginning of a revolution in the production of energy in this country,'' Biden said.

"I wanna see the Motor City once again. Even if the motors are electric, or hydrogen-powered, or powered by other means. And I hope a whole lot of the batteries that go into those vehicles come from there in Midland," he said.

Biden said this facility will turn out "the Hemi engine of batteries."

"We're not just talking about more batteries, but better batteries, more efficient batteries, more powerful batteries. These superior lithium ion batteries can run longer, provide more power, work in a broader range of temperatures, and have a longer operational life," he said.

Biden's appearance at the event was part of a six-week focus on economic recovery act infrastructure projects nationwide.

The Democratic vice president, talking about the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, said he and President Barack Obama "don't think government is the answer,'' but that it can be the catalyst for an economic recovery by providing the "seed money'' as it has in the case of the Dow Kokam plant.

Dow Kokam, which is a joint venture of Dow Chemical Co. and TK Advanced Battery LLC, was given a $161 million grant to be put toward the construction of the 800,000-square-foot plant.

Representatives from Midland-based Dow Chemical and Dow Kokam participated as did Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow.

Eventually, the site is to house an 800,000-square-foot battery manufacturing plant that will be developed in two overlapping construction phases. When complete, the facility will employ nearly 800 people, and have the capacity to manufacture 1.2 billion watt hours of large-format affordable lithium-ion batteries -- enough to power 60,000 fully electric or hybrid electric vehicles annually, (assuming a 20 KWh battery system). The first phase of construction, supported by the $161 million stimulus grant, has a targeted capacity of 600 million watt hours and will employ up to 320 people.

Dow Kokam has committed to spend $322 million for the first phase of construction. Development of the plant will provide more than 1,000 regional construction jobs. When both phases of construction are complete, the project will have lead to 2,720 direct and indirect jobs.

Biden and Dow CEO Andrew Liveris also talked over other Dow green technologies, including Dow Powerhuose solar shingles, named one of the best inventions of 2009 by Time Magazine, and Dow's breakthrough diesel particulate filters, which deliver better gas mileage and lower emissions from diesel engines.

"We're 'rebooting' the American manufacturing base right here in Midland, Michigan, and redefining what it means to say 'built in the U.S.A.,'" said Andrew N. Liveris, Dow chairman and CEO. "All of these green tech programs show the great results that can be achieved when government and industry work together toward a common goal. We're confident technological innovation, job creation, and sustained economic growth like this can take place all over the U.S. if we address head-on the major issues that are limiting a robust resurgence of U.S. manufacturing activity."

Liveris said Dow also intends to continue its record investments in research and development, which is key to driving innovation, economic re-investment, and fulfillment of its public commitment to address world challenges through sustainable chemistry.

Dow is once again investing $1.6 billion in R&D in 2010, more than the combined R&D budgets of every university chemistry department in the United States. Since 2005, the company has invested more than $9 billion in R&D to speed innovation, create jobs and transform Dow into an earnings growth company.

© MMX WWJ Radio, All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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