Michigan. They includes a cathode materials plant by Toda America, battery testing facilities by AVL and A&D Technology, electric motor components by Magna, energy-storage solutions by Xtreme Power, and electric drive-train testing by Eaton.
Many small Michigan companies now also belong to this supply chain. “There are a number of suppliers in this state actively getting contracts and engaged in this industry that we’re not even aware of,” Mr. Shreffler said. “We have to go to conferences in Florida and California to meet with them and find out they are doing this.” Going forward, the MEDC team will start focusing on “understanding the full depth and breadth of what is happening with all of the companies here,” he said. It also will try to “build out this eco-system with Michigan-based companies.”
The energy storage drive is important for a number of reasons, Mr. Shreffler said. It is establishing a domestic source for high-energy, high-power batteries needed by the U.S. transportation industry and Department of Defense. Having the center of gravity in the U.S. also spurs new economic expansion and development opportunities from transportation-focused companies and “creates a foundation for building out a sustainable ecosystem over time,” he said. It also provides further opportunities for collaboration between private industry and Michigan universities.
Now the MEDC is developing the next steps to advance the battery industry. Mr. Shreffler recalled attending a board meeting where incentives were being discussed. An executive asked: “Now that you have taken care of batteries, what are you going to do next?” In reality, “we are really viewing this is as just the beginning,” Mr. Shreffler said. “The hard work is yet to come. The easy part was working with great companies to establish opportunities here.”
One focus is to look at “dual-use” opportunities for companies in the battery industry. The military is a major potential market for Michigan manufacturers. Energy storage for the grid is another major focus. “All of this is to the end of trying to help our cell manufacturers have long-term sustainability and begin to rapidly drive down the cost curve so that the battery technology is accessible to where it is needed,” Mr. Shreffler said.
The MEDC will continue to reassess its “economic tool kit” because the industry is in a new phase, he said. What’s more, two-thirds of Michigan’s legislature is set to turn over and a new governor will be elected. The MEDC will work to educate new officials on what has been done, what needs to be done, and what further tools are needed, he said. It also will continue to advocate for strong policy at the federal level to make sure the industry keeps moving forward. “It all is about execution,” Mr. Shreffler said. “We have to execute as an economic development agency. Our cell manufacturers and suppliers must execute to build out their capacity. The federal government has to execute on not abandoning the path that we’ve gone down.”
One next step is to strengthen what the MEDC calls “the alliance.” The goal is to align state initiatives, especially in batteries and advanced materials, with the priorities of federal agencies such as the Energy and Defense departments