Up to 2,600 Jobs That Won’t Be Coming to MA—Boston-Power CEO “Incredibly Disappointed” to Miss Out on DOE Funds

8/5/09Follow @bbuderi

Boston-Power CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud says she was “incredibly disappointed” and “frankly a little surprised” when the U.S. Department of Energy today announced $1.5 billion in battery-related grants—and none of it went to her company. The Westborough, MA-based firm had requested $100 million to build a state-of-the-art “green” battery-manufacturing plant in Auburn, MA.

“I have this vision of being a good global citizen, and one of my visions is to bring great technology to the market. And we do that everyday,” Lampe-Onnerud, an Xconomist, told me in a phone call this afternoon. “I’m incredibly disappointed that DOE and the [Obama] Administration didn’t bet on us.” Her proposal, she says, was to build the facility in three years. “We would have been able to do that in two years. We would have brought 600 jobs to Boston-Power in Massachusetts, and we would have pulled along 2,000 in indirect jobs.”

Lampe-Onnerud says the decision stung all the worse because Boston-Power has shown its competiveness and its success through deals such as the one announced last December with Hewlett-Packard to make energy efficient, eco-friendly replacement batteries for laptops. “We have landed some of the top fish in a very competitive market. We would have loved to help bring green jobs back to the United States.”

But Lampe-Onnerud continued in her trademark energetic, upbeat fashion. For starters, she said the Department of Defense also opened up a grant program along with DOE’s, and “we did apply to both agencies. So their [the DOD] decision, I think, is happening in October, and I remain hopeful that Boston-Power will be invited into the table.” She adds, “We will continue to try to make this happen in Massachusetts.”

Lampe-Onnerud seemed to back away from a statement made during a keynote session on June 24 at XSITE, the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, and Entrepreneurship, in which she said if Boston-Power did not receive the $100 million in stimulus funds, “we will most likely not remain an American company.”

Instead, she says, “I think the fact is if we don’t get the Department of Energy funding and don’t get the Department of Defense funding, we will not be able to put together a manufacturing plant in the United States, which means the whole focus of the company will go to Asia. There is so much cash on the ground in Asia and it’s so tight here.”

Boston-Power currently has one big plant in Taiwan and is building an even bigger one in China’s Shanghai corridor, Lampe-Onnerud says.

Whatever the funding decisions, “I would say life goes on,” she says. “It’s going really, really well for Boston-Power…we’re expanding into many regions.” She says the company will have some “very cool news” this fall about some deals in the portable power and automotive spaces.

Lampe-Onnerud did point out that the bulk of the battery funding went to proposals designed to create jobs in Michigan and, to a much lesser extent, Indiana, around the automotive belt. Case in point was fellow Massachusetts battery maker A123Systems of Watertown, which today won a $249 million grant to build a plant in Livonia, MI.

“I suspect it’s really not about us, it’s really about Michigan and Indiana,” she says. “I don’t know if it was in the cards for Massachusetts.”

Bob is Xconomy's founder and editor in chief. You can e-mail him at bbuderi@xconomy.com, call him at 617.500.5926. Follow @bbuderi

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