Watertown's A123 Opens Plant — In Michigan

A123 Systems of Watertown has opened what is says is the largest lithium ion battery manufacturing plant in the country, in Livonia, Mich.

President Obama phoned in to the grand opening, calling it the birth of a new industry.

"I am calling to congratulate A123 Systems on this tremendous milestone," Mr. Obama said.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm called the stimulus-funded project a start for her hard-hit state.

"A123 represents a slice of success for Michigan," she said. "This commercialization and taking this technology to scale, putting Michigan workers to work in it — and the partnership that grows in it — can be replicated not just in Michigan, but in this country, to keep advanced manufacturing jobs here."

Many of the 300 employees who were at the event are former auto workers.

A123 got a $249 million grant from the federal stimulus, and an additional $125 million in state tax incentives to build its factory in the Detroit suburbs. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick acknowledged that the Bay State could not offer a competitive package to build closer to company headquarters in Watertown.

A123 also plans to open another plant near the Motor City next year.

Despite the fanfare, there are big commercial hurdles to battery technology in cars.

This program aired on September 13, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Curt Nickisch Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.



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