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From Site Selection magazine, May 2011

Pure Manufacturing

The Buckeye State powers up a new industrial cluster.

BASF, with the help of a $24.6-million U.S. Dept. of Energy grant, is building a new production facility for battery materials in Elyria.
Photo courtesy of BASF

hio is home to an emerging cluster of major battery and energy storage projects. BASF's November 2010 announcement of a new-generation manufacturing facility in Elyria — a Cleveland suburb often viewed as a Rust Belt poster child — is a recent example. The multinational chemical company is building a US$50-million production facility in Elyria for cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries used to power hybrid and full-electric vehicles. The facility, which is being built with the help of a $24.6-million grant from the U.S. Dept. of Energy under the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, will be located adjacent to the company's catalysts and specialty-pigments plant where about 180 people currently work. BASF acquired that operation from Engelhard Corp. in 2006.

BASF, which has more than 200 production sites, considered six of its locations for the new project, with shared infrastructure being a key factor in the site decision.

"The process will be similar to what we do in the catalysts business, and overlaps our pigments business," says Dr. Phillip Hanefeld, senior manager for global marketing and strategy at BASF. "We wanted to use some of the work force and the infrastructure from the existing plant."

Hanefeld, who is a specialist in energy storage, says other BASF sites were finalists for the project, including its largest manufacturing site at Ludwigshafen, Germany, which he describes as the company's "mother site." He says Elyria was the best-equipped U.S. site for the project. BASF was in the last round of its site selection process for the plant when the stimulus grant was announced, he says. It also helped that BASF has a research center in nearby Beachwood.

"A lot of the battery industry is coming to Ohio, and that was a plus for the U.S. in general," Hanefeld says. "A lot of our customers are getting their feet on the ground in the U.S."

The new plant will add 20 to 30 people to the company's work force. Hanefeld says the facility will employ a highly skilled staff who must adhere to high standards in terms of manufacturing purity.

"Purity is really the key if you have to have long life in cars and batteries," Hanefeld says. "It is very process driven. If you don't handle the process well, you have a lot of impurities."

Hanefeld anticipates that production will begin during the fourth quarter of 2012.

A company with a similar name has plans for a battery plant in Findlay, near Toledo. BASN Enterprises was awarded a 50-percent Job Creation Tax Credit for a seven-year term. The company plans to produce advanced absorbed glass mat batteries that provide energy storage in solar array, remote and portable power products and backup power information systems. The $148-million project, if built, would create 446 jobs, according to the company.

Park Targets Energy Storage

Energy storage will be the theme of a planned technology park on the 88-acre (36-hectare) footprint of a now demolished shopping mall in the Dayton suburb of Trotwood. The City of Trotwood has big plans for the park, to be known as TechConnection.

"Our focus is on advanced energy storage," says Michael Lucking, Trotwood's city manager. "We are in the master planning stage and working with an advisory committee. Our conceptual plan is to have incubator space appropriate for startups and some space for relatively large manufacturers so that we can have a cross-section of users that will fit in the cluster. We have some very solid prospects, and we hope that we would have the first tenant in six months or so."

Lucking says the park has the support of local educational institutions, and could build on the Dayton area's strong research and product development base, which includes entities such as the research labs at Wright Patterson Air Force Base and leading research institutions such as the University of Dayton Research Institute and Wright State University Research Institute. Other schools in the region include Sinclair Community College, Central State University, and Wilberforce University, which boast a combined regional enrollment of more than 30,000 students.

The City of Trotwood has owned the property since 2004. The mall was razed in 2006, leaving two outlying retailers, Home Depot and Sears, whose stores will be incorporated into the new technology campus. Lucking expects the park to be fully developed within 18 to 24 months; he estimates the build-out of the park will take 10 to 12 years with an investment of $70 million to $90 million.

The Edison Materials Technology Center (EMTEC) in Dayton, one of seven state-supported technology centers in Ohio, is working with the City of Trotwood to assess technologies. Frank Svet, president and CEO of EMTEC, says the project has already drawn international interest.

"Last September we had a trade delegation visit from the Republic of Slovenia, and we've had some visits from Japanese firms, all involved in energy storage."

Svet says the park will consist of eight to 10 buildings, with companies having a lease or purchase option.

Bot Base

The I-75 corridor puts robotics specialist Motoman on the path to its automotive customers in the Midwest and Southeast. So that's just where the U.S. division of Japan-based Yaskawa decided to put its new headquarters and manufacturing facility.

Motoman expects to complete its new North American campus near an interchange of I-75 in the Dayton suburb of Miamisburg in May. Motoman, which also considered three other sites in Ohio and one in Indiana, will employ 275 at the site.

"As we were thinking about a new headquarters, we decided to stay in Ohio because it is close to our manufacturing base," says Tom Schockman, Motoman's CFO. "We have a lot of automotive projects and customers along the I-75 corridor. Much of our customer base is in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois, so we are fairly centrally located."

Motoman also provides industrial robots for the consumer products, life sciences and heavy construction machinery sectors.

Schockman says the company is also trying to increase its business in the materials handling area for distribution centers.

"The automotive industry has always relied on robotics, and that will continue. As companies in other industries recover from the recession, they are looking at different ways to do things, and automation with robots is one way," Schockman says.

Motoman's location is at a new interchange off of I-75. One side is being developed for retail, while Motoman will be the first project on the industrial side. Motoman's new campus will have 225,000 sq. ft. (20,900 sq. m.) of manufacturing space and 80,000 sq. ft. (7,430 sq. m.) of office space. It will serve as a consolidation point for facilities that Motoman has occupied in West Carrollton and Troy. The 25-acre (10-hectare) site has space for the facility to add another 200,000 sq. ft. (18,580 sq. m.) to accommodate growth.

Motoman purchases robots from its parent company in Japan and programs them in Ohio. The company also operates engineering facilities in Rochester Hills, Mich., and Irvine, Calif.

"Our site has easy access for our customers and our employees," Schockman says. "The logistics of getting trucks in and out was a major consideration."

Campus Takes Flight

In March 2010, backed by an Ohio Third Frontier grant of up to $7.6 million, GE Aviation said it would locate a new Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research and Development Center (EPISCENTER) somewhere in the Dayton area. In late November, it got more specific, choosing a parcel on the University of Dayton campus, part of Dayton's Ohio Aerospace Hub of Innovation.

A company statement said making the decision competitive with other options required significant collaboration between the school, GE, the City of Dayton, Montgomery County and CityWide Development Corp., which plans to start building the $51-million facility in May or June. GE Aviation will enter a long-term lease agreement with the University of Dayton and CityWide.

"Environmental reviews are now complete, and we've received clearance on that front," says GE Aviation spokesperson Jennifer Villarreal. "We are still working through the lease agreement. The architect and build partners are developing the detailed schematic design and materials for the facility."

The company broke ground for the project on April 14. "GE's new R&D center will be the southern anchor to the Ohio Aerospace Hub of Innovation and Opportunity," said Lorraine Bolsinger, president and CEO of GE Aviation Systems. "This location and future facility will help all stakeholders in attracting high caliber engineering talent. The center will be a catalyst for new contracts and products resulting in job growth at the EPISCENTER and at GE locations such as Vandalia."

"Without a doubt, it's extraordinary for a Fortune 100 corporation to build a multi-million-dollar research facility on a college campus in today's economic climate," said Daniel J. Curran, president of the University of Dayton.

The 120,000-sq.-ft. (11,148-sq.-m.) facility is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2012 and operational by the end of 2012.

"The center's close proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the University of Dayton Research Institute is important in order to provide significant new support to the Air Force Research Labs and the University," said Vic Bonneau, president, Electrical Power Systems for GE Aviation, in November. "The University's researchers will work with GE to develop and deploy cutting-edge computer modeling, simulation and analysis of advanced, dynamic electric power systems, design and controls."

The center will be directed at several markets, including end-to-end electrical power starter/generation, conversion, distribution, and load technologies for civil and military aerospace applications. It will complement GE Aviation's new Electrical Power Integrated Center (EPIC) located in Cheltenham, U.K., which became operational in March.  

The largest private university in Ohio, the University of Dayton is a top-tier national Catholic research university with an annual sponsored research volume of nearly $100 million.

"This is the future for leading universities," said Curran in November, speaking to the idea of multinationals and higher education working together on research-oriented projects. "When the University of Dayton purchased this land five years ago, we made a commitment that we would try to attract strong companies that could spur research and economic development for the region. This is that vision coming to fruition."

A Steely Competitor

The Timken Company, based in Canton, is in the midst of an expansion program as it gears up to serve a growing lineup of markets.

"To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our death are greatly exaggerated," says Tim Timken, chairman of the 112-year-old Canton-based manufacturer of alloy steels and engineered bearings. "There's still quite a bit left, with some big names and globally competitive steel makers. Certainly, it's a smaller industry than it used to be, having gone through three rounds of restructuring since the late 1970s. The ones who are left are the ones who are competitive to begin with."

Timken's company has announced two major expansions in recent months with a total investment of $85 million. The most recent is at the Faircrest rolling mill in Canton, where a $35-million project will add an in-line forge press aimed at increasing capacity and expanding product capabilities in markets such as oil and gas, heavy machinery, wind energy and power generation.

Since 2006, the company has made investments totaling more than $200 million. Most are advanced technology investments focused on improving productivity and developing new products to strengthen Timken's position and support long-term growth. They include two new heat-treat lines and a scrap logistics system added between 2006 and 2007; a long-length tube line added in 2008; and a new small bar mill, which was commissioned at the company's facility in Harrison, Ohio, in 2008.

"Our investments support a broad portfolio [from] oil and gas to automotives," Timken says. "On the steel and on the bearing side, wind is an interesting opportunity. We do about $100 million on the bearing side and less than that on the steel side, with a lot of that in Asia. We've been a little bit careful about how aggressive we have gone after that market."

Timken says his company's investments are to drive competitiveness, but they won't be associated with large increases in its work force. However, he says most of the employees laid off during 2009 and 2010 are now back to work.

"We are in the process of developing a wind product testing facility in cooperation with Stark State University [based in North Canton] to test ultra-large products going into wind turbines," Timken says. "This will be unique to the industry. Our belief is that no one else will be able to do these tests. We should be in operation by the middle of next year."

The Wind Energy Research and Development Center will be the first phase of Stark State's Emerging Technologies Airport Campus. The 12,000-sq.-ft. (1,114-sq.-m.) facility, to be built in partnership with the Stark County Port Authority/Stark Development Board, will be used for industry research along with education and training of current and future industry technicians. The new center will have the unique capability to assemble and test large, full-scale bearing systems and other gearbox components under real-world-application weight loads, speeds and environmental conditions, according to Stark State.

Timken says his company is a big investor in R&D, with a global hub-and-spoke network of research centers. "The core is here in Stark County," he says. "Our annual spend is in the neighborhood of $50 million. It has served us well."

Automotive customers account for about 25 percent of the company's business, a figure that used to be about 50 percent.

"During this downturn, we took the opportunity to look at the portfolio of businesses that we serve," Timken says. "A lot of that goes to automotives, but a portion of the business we were serving didn't create enough value for our customers, so we did some portfolio shifting."

The Timken Company has two major expansions under way at its steel plants, including its Faircrest facility in Canton.
Photo courtesy of The Timken Company

Story in Pictures

Phillip Hanefeld, senior manager for global marketing and strategy, BASF
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