WARREN – The bid by a coalition of northeast Ohio economic development organizations, including some from the Mahoning Valley, for a $1 billion tranche to develop smart manufacturing and materials industries advances in the region failed.
Yet there is a positive outcome, said Rick Stockburger, president/CEO of BRITE Energy Innovators, one of the locally connected organizations, and one that would have received millions to develop a laboratory for research and development, commercialization, manpower development and battery testing at Warren. .
It’s a “unprecedented” significant level of cooperation and collaboration between the Mahoning Valley, Akron and Cleveland on a project that would have benefited greater Northeast Ohio.
“I think this is just the start of more regional collaboration that benefits the whole region,” said Stockburger. “Although we did not achieve the result we worked for, we have worked and we have built relationships and partnerships across the region that will move the whole region forward.”
“This is not the result we worked for, but it is by no means the end,” he said.
It was announced in December that the $75 million proposal led by MAGNET (Manufacturing Advocacy Growth Network), the Cleveland-based group that spans 18 northeast Ohio counties, was a Build Back finalist. Better Regional Challenge, part of the Biden administration’s coronavirus relief package. .
Each of the finalists received $500,000 to develop a plan.
On Friday, the 21 winners of the regional challenge were announced. The local effort was not one of them.
But Guy Coviello, president/CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, declared victory.
“We won the $500,000 planning grant. This allowed organizations in northeast Ohio to truly collaborate for the very first time,” he said. “It has become a model that is already producing results for the local economy.”
MAGNET’s proposal was split into build and non-build program components, one of which would be led by BRITE, the state’s only energy technology incubator.
Other members of the Valley coalition include America Makes, the national accelerator for additive manufacturing and 3D printing in Youngstown; Youngstown State University; Youngstown Business Incubator; and the regional chamber.
BRITE, according to the request, would establish a space for research and development and commercialization to support companies in the field of batteries and energy storage, in particular those in the automotive sector.
The project would cost around $12 million and was planned for a building at 999 Pine Ave., which portfolio company BRITE Megajoule Ventures acquired in 2020. The building is Republic Steel’s former office building.
The plan remains viable, but not in the time it could have been realized if the grant had been funded.
“The whole point of this was to show viable partnerships that wanted this facility up and running, to be the crown jewel of one of the most developable corridors in the state of Ohio, and I think that’s is still something that can be achieved,” said Stockburger.
Now, BRITE is shifting its short-term focus to a fundraising campaign to improve its downtown facilities by “the building it can be to create jobs and bring people to downtown Warren,” said Stockburger.
Already, more than 1,000 Ultium Cells employees have undergone training at the BRITE office and “We’re excited to continue this partnership…and excited to redevelop our facilities so Foxconn can send people downtown.”
Foxconn is the Taiwan-based electronics and technology giant that recently purchased the former Lordstown Motors Corp. and before that, the former General Motors automobile assembly complex in Lordstown.
So far, Foxconn will produce two vehicles – one, an electric car from Fisker Inc. and the other, an autonomous electric farm tractor for Monarch.
Ultium Cells is a joint venture between GM and South Korea’s LG Energy Solutions to mass-produce battery cells for electric vehicles. Production at the Lordstown plant began with the plan to ship parts for use in GM vehicles by the end of the year.