The reports were spot on. The LG Chem battery plant in Holland, MI – which was intended to make batteries for the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, but has not yet started production – is not only furloughing its 200 employees, those breaks are "extending and expanding," according to reports on local TV news station WZZM 13, citing statements from the company. The rolling furloughs started April 30.

Just as alternative-energy vehicles have made a splash in the presidential election, the LG Chem plant story is playing in the Michigan Senate race between Democratin incumbent Debbie Stabenow and Republican challenger Pete Hoekstra. Stabenow's point of view is in line with Obama's, which is that plug-in vehicles are a good thing and that "we need to win the [global] race" to build them. Hoekstra, on the other hand, criticized the spending of taxpayer money on a plant that "hasn't produced a singe battery."

There's a word potentially missing there, since the plant hasn't made a battery yet. LG Chem's line is that since plug-in vehicle demand is lower than expected, the workers are not being asked to make the packs. Yet. But once demand increases, "the plant will be fully operational," WZZM writes. LG Chem isn't saying when that might happen.

LG Chem also points out that it isn't using federal money to pay for idle workers and will review any misspent money for potential refunds to the government. According to a company statement sent to the Grand Rapids Business Journal:

Taxpayer money has not been wasted, because when the market demand justifies production, the facility will be utilized. More than 1,000 construction jobs were involved in building the facility, and 200 company jobs have been created, adding a solid boost to the local economy. LG Chem has the strongest motivation to operate the plant, because it has invested more than 50 percent, over $150 million, of the cost to construct the facility, so it will utilize the plant when the time is right. ... LG Chem feels a duty to take care of the people and to keep them on the team, so they can be ready for production. The company will not use (Department of Energy) grant money to pay for any idle time. It will review prior billings, and if any has been used, then that money will be refunded to the DOE.

More to come, assuredly. There's a video report below.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 24 Comments
      wrestleprocbt
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hey, maybe GM should buy them! They have all our money anyway! Only thing they will have to do is make sure some union thugs run it and that they keep a dem in the Whitehouse to make sure they are paid before suppliers each time they file bankruptcy!
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @wrestleprocbt
        Or maybe we should keep the repub out of the White House so the economy doesn't crash around us while allowing the rich banking industry from raking enormous profits in while screwing the rest of us. The world, politics, and the economy is a lot more complex than you are painting it out to be.
          Marcopolo
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Grendal
          @ Grendal Rant v Counter-Rant ! I'll be glad when this election campaign (which seems to have gone on forever) is finally over !
      usbseawolf2000
      • 2 Years Ago
      2013 Leaf's battery and electric motor will be made in the US. It'll run on 100% domestic electricity since it has no gas engine range extender.
      lad
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sorry there is no defense for this; you built the plant with tax funds under an agreement to start building batteries. Return all the money, including the construction funding, close the building, and return to Korea, the land of cheap labor, where you came from. When are the readers going to catch on; we cannot build high tech products in this country because our labor costs are too high. Our labor costs are too high because we are use to a rich-class and middle-class life style. But, don't worry the Big Industries that run this Capitalistic Nation will soon drag the middle-class down to the peon level and eliminate all but the Rich and The Poor, just like they want. This change is what they are after and along with it goes this country's failed experiment by our founders to bring into existence a true Democracy, government by the people. The rich industrialists in this country buy and sell your politicians by providing election money in exchange for favors and favorable legislation. The only way to gain control of our country is to elect politicians who govern with the people's best interest in mind. These are Statesmen. The only way to elect statesmen is by Public Funded Elections and by limiting the election season to 6 weeks before the election. If you take away the special interest money, the politicians will work for the people and not Big Industries. And.may be the Middle-class will survive.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @lad
        I'm with you on publicly funded elections. But that is about all I agree with. We can build high-tech here because: 1) USA labor costs are not all that high. Less than Germany. Pretty much the same as Japan. Nissan brags about how the Leaf plant in TN will cost less than the Leaf plant in Japan. 2) Building batteries is heavily automated so labor is not a big input. 3) Batteries are big & heavy, so the cost of shipping them across the pacific removes much of any labor cost advantage. I agree that it is hard to iPhones here. They have more labor input and they are small lightweight high value items. But big automotive batteries, we can do.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sounds like they're defending the guy who handed out the cash... just sayin. Didn't this plant open up earlier that year? so >6 months of operation with not a single product produced.. some taxpayers funds certainly went to pay employees for some time. Rolling furloughs means you are still paying people to do nothing. We really are in denial that China and Japan have beat us silly at manufacturing high tech stuff. Yes, we do make some high tech stuff - under government-funded military projects that only lead to manufacturing contracts here because we do not want our defense/offense tech to get pilfered abroad. We really need to examine NAFTA, our labor laws, liability, legal environment, and such if we want to ever start manufacturing anything new. I want people in office who will make those hard choices and get our work back. This current situation is inexcusable. Throwing money at industry is not a solution.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        I'm sure you'll be first in line to cut your salary to the same amount as Chinese make in order to restore competitiveness.
      goodoldgorr
      • 2 Years Ago
      Almost no one is making money with green technologies, it's sad.
        Marcopolo
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        @ Gorr, Congratulations, this is your third sensible, relevant comment in a row ! Well done, and keep it up !
        Letstakeawalk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Al Gore has done quite well.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          ^--uprating you because well, it's true. I've got some limited edition holographic signed & numbered carbon offsets if anyone is interested.. ;)
          Spec
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Letstakeawalk
          How so? He gives the book & movie royalties to charity. He's a VC but most of that money from that is probably from non-green investments. SilverSpring Networks has been a "green" success but it is basically a smart grid company and it probably made most of the money by helping the utilities eliminate the need to send out meter-readers . . . not exactly a real green thing. It is extremely difficult to make money in green energy because competing with cheap energy dug out of the ground is hard.
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        It is sad but it is not surprising. They are literally competing against buried treasure. That is a tough business to be in. But that buried treasure pollutes, is finite, and is harming the climate. So they gotta keep trying.
        Spiffster
        • 2 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        Thats somewhat expected at this point. The industry is just gathering steam and infrastructure is just beginning to develop. Things may be much different only a few years from now.
      brotherkenny4
      • 2 Years Ago
      Many companies have mismatch between production capacity and demand. Koreans typically feel more loyalty to their employees, and would rather keep them for a while rather than lay them off. It can be argued that losing trained employees is a increased loss since the training has to be done again for new replacements. Americans love to be cruel and look for any chance to lay people off and find fault and accuse others of wrong doing, and they don't need real evidence to do it.
        Grendal
        • 2 Years Ago
        @brotherkenny4
        Short term thinking vs. long term thinking. Americans and humans in general can get caught up in the immediacy of the short term mindset. I couldn't say whether Koreans are somehow exempt from this, however.
      Archonic
      • 2 Years Ago
      So where have the volt batteries come from thus far?
      Maddoxx
      • 2 Years Ago
      Make something exciting and affordable and people will buy it. All these electric cars are overpriced and not thrilling to drive(sans Tesla) Take away the subsidies/ tax rebate and you force the manufacturer to lower their MSRP. The government "help" only inflates the price. Open up private/ public investment opportunities. This new industry needs less reliance on the government. They need to prove they can stand in their own through enterprise.
        Archonic
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Maddoxx
        You mean open up public investment opportunities like a Tesla IPO? Hey that's a good ide-oh wait...
        Spec
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Maddoxx
        The cars are expensive, not over-priced. GM admits they lose money on the Volt . . . it is a long-term play. We need to have alternative fueled cars because being completely reliant on oil is a bad thing. We are forced to import half our supply, it pollutes, the main production area is a very volatile area of the world, and it will keep going upward in price over the long term because it is a finite substance. So the tax-credit helps build a market for EVs & PHEVs. None of the EV nor PHEV makers is getting rich off the government incentives they get. Three Li-Ion makers (Enerdel, Valence, and A123) went bankrupt in the past 2 years.
          Maddoxx
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Spec
          The manufacturers are not making money yet because sales figures are still low compared to a regular Sub compact car. The volt still hasn't broken 3000 a month. The honda civic sales figure at 30,000 units a month. If you can get the Volt/ leaf prices closer to a civic. Your mass manufacturing cost goes down. you sell a lor more cars. And gain ground on costs. Instead they keep the prices high and rely on government tax rebates, sell under 3000 a month and lose money. Lowering MSRP and introducing EV tech at lower price to the masses is where this industry needs to head to.
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