Plasan Carbon Composites carbon fiber plant to create 202 jobs and cutting-edge workforce in West Michigan
By Ursula Zerilli | firstname.lastname@example.org
on July 20, 2011 at 9:00 AM
WALKER — Besides adding 202 jobs to West Michigan, a new carbon fiber composite plant for automotive parts could mean a pioneering workforce in the state.
Plasan Carbon Composites’ formally announced its opening of a new plant in Walker on Tuesday. The Michigan Economic Growth Authority (MEGA) approved a five-year tax credit valued at $4.7 million for the Walker facility. The company has been operating a development center in Wixom since December.
The company expects the Walker plant to generate more than $18 million in capital investment and will provide 202 new jobs over the next three years.
“This new facility represents the next phase of Plasan Carbon Composites’ commitment to the automotive industry,” said James Staargaard, president of Plasan Carbon Composites. “We are grateful to the State of Michigan for their support of this technology and true job growth initiative.”
The plant will use “breakthrough carbon fiber processing technology” to support mid-to-high volume-based automotive body model programs.
Carbon fiber is a lightweight material being used to replace heavier metals in luxury cars, military vehicles, aircrafts and high-end bicycles.
Costly production of the material has kept its use in high-end markets. Plasan claims to have found a way to bring production costs down to a level where the material can be used for mass-produced vehicles, and they are starting production in West Michigan.
“I think this is the first step into making this a viable option for a large number of vehicles and the workforce will be cutting-edge in this industry,” said George Bosnjak, the business development manager at The Right Place, Inc. “They are trying to ramp up production capabilities. They have a proprietary technique that will make production costs more competitive than it was in the past.”
Bosnjak said carbon fiber is a likely solution for automakers searching for ways to meet emission standards for lightweight, electric vehicles.
The Bennington, Vt.-based company is a subsidiary of Israeli defense contractor Plasan Sasa.
IRN Inc. vice president Tracy Schneiter said the company’s background in using the material for military purposes gives them more credibility.
“Automakers need to offset weight and Plasan is offering that exchange and it gives them credibility from the standpoint of testing,” she said. “They are diversified, which means they are not just automotive and are backed up by a broader organization that is well-proven.”
She also said Plasan choosing West Michigan could become a trend-setter if the plant becomes a leading producer in the lightweight automotive material.
“The West Michigan workforce is familiar with automotive requirements, so Plasan is bringing their expertise of the material and our workforce is bringing their expertise of the business. In order to sustain 200 jobs, they have to take it to the next level and make it more cost-effective for vehicles that are not as high-end,” she said.
City officials are delighted that jobs are being created in Walker. City Manager Cathy VanderMeulen said the high-technology plant is “good news” for locals and the state.
“This city is interested in creating and maintaining good, quality jobs and at this point, we expect Plasan to create 200 high-tech manufacturing positions,” she said. “We believe that it’s going to have long-term benefits for Walker and this type of process has a great potential for high growth,” she said.
Plasan plans to start hiring during the final quarter of 2011 and officials said they decided to build the plant in Michigan because of a “terrific history of polymer processing companies and support from the state.”