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SAFT Battery Plant Grand Opening on Jacksonville's Westside

6:25 PM, Sep 16, 2011   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The mayor, a U.S. senator and a U.S. representative were on hand for the grand opening of a new facility that's bringing jobs to Jacksonville.

The SAFT battery facility is now open, a $200 million, 240,000- square-foot facility that already has created about 300 jobs for the area.

SAFT produces lithium-ion batteries that will be used by, among others, the military and by the aerospace industry to back up telecom networks and utility grids.

PICTURES: Inside the SAFT Plant

"As we look to the future of revolutionizing transportation, shifting from fossil fuels to electric batteries, it is very likely that batteries made or designed in this facility are going to be part of that future," said Sen. Bill Nelson at the ceremony.  "It's another example of the diversification of northeast Florida's economy."

SAFT expects to produce up to 700,000 batteries the first year.  By 2013, three lines will be running, capable of producing up to 3 million batteries.

SAFT's CEO said Jacksonville's factory is the 16th SAFT plant across the world and will likely be the biggest. Logistics was a big reason why the company chose to build here.

"We are going to be selling these batteries throughout the world," said CEO Jon Searle. "This is not just a factory to supply products throughout America. This is a factory to supply batteries to the whole network of SAFT around the world.  So the fact that we have easy access to ports and certainly across America is very important."

The battery-making process starts with copper foil. The copper is coated with a black material, run through a giant oven, cut and then wound into a jelly roll along with electrodes. Robots seal the batteries, which then go for testing.

Many of the employees will maintain and monitor the robots in the plant.  SAFT employees will earn an average of about $45,000 a year.

"It's a good public-private partnership," said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.  "This is the kind of example that I think we need to be doing more of."

Brown said the U.S. Department of Energy contributed $95 million to complement the $200 million put up by SAFT for the plant.

Rep. Corrine Brown said the jobs were filled at a recent job fair and she likes the slogan she has heard.

"Made in Jacksonville and sold around the world," she said to applause.

First Coast News

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