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Ultium Cells takes shape

LORDSTOWN — General Motors didn’t wait long into 2020 to announce exactly where in Lordstown it and LG Chem would build a next-generation plant to mass produce battery cells for the automaker’s electric vehicle lineup.

It was Jan. 14 the automaker revealed it had a signed purchase agreement for 158 acres of land on Tod Avenue for the $2.3 billion facility that when at full steam will employ upward of 1,100 workers.

And 2021 promises to be a big year for Ultium Cells LLC as employees start to come aboard and make practice builds ahead of the scheduled early 2022 start of production target.

GM didn’t hesitate to start work at the site adjacent to its former automaking plant after finalizing the $5.1 million land purchase in March. The next month, after securing the needed environmental permits, site work had begun with the facility marking a milestone in July with the first of the steel beams placed into the ground.

In September, the state awarded Ultium Cells a 1.95 percent, 15-year job creation tax credit on $45 million in new payroll taxes. The deal is a savings of about $13.8 million for Ultium Cells assuming it fulfills the terms of the agreement, part of which requires the company to maintain operations in Lordstown for at least 18 years.

In November, the company announced it is hiring for several positions at the plant on its website, www.ultiumcell.com.

GM and LG Chem in their joint venture equally are sharing the investment in Lordstown.

The company, a limited liability corporation governed by a board of directors from GM and LG Chem, is led by Kee Eun, president of LG Chem. Tom Gallagher, who has more than 30 years with GM, is plant director.

“LG Chem has proprietary technology, intellectual property on battery cells that no one else in the world has. So by establishing a partnership, we bring together shared responsibility, leverage our strengths and fundamentally are able to share in the benefits and risks of this business,” Gallagher said in November.

“This is a first of its kind joint venture relationship between a battery-cell manufacturer and an automobile OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in the world,” Gallagher said. “It’s unique and strategic, and we believe it’s a strategic advantage for both GM and LG Chem. We think it makes a great deal of sense.”

The plant is about 3.1 million square feet, big enough to fully contain more than 30 football fields. Cells produced there will help power GM’s all-electric future. Already, the automaker announced cells will be used in several GM models, including the GMC Hummer, Cadillac Lyriq, Bolt EV / EUV and Cruise Origin — GM’s electric driverless vehicle.

GM has not confirmed how many vehicles will by powered by Ultium Cells, but the plant will have an annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours with room for expansion.

But it wasn’t all good for GM in the Mahoning Valley this year.

In September, GM was ordered by the state to refund $28 million for breaking job creation and retention tax-credit agreements the automaker received in 2008 to retool the Lordstown assembly plant it closed in March 2019.

GM also was ordered to invest $12 million in the Mahoning Valley in education and training, community programs and / or infrastructure.

Those are the conditions of an agreement with the Ohio Tax Credit Authority and GM, which had faced the prospect of refunding the entire $60.3 million in credits it was awarded to upgrade the plant to produce the second-generation Chevrolet Cruze.

GM must make the payments by Dec. 31, 2022.

Countdown

We are looking back at 2020’s Top 10 stories, as chosen by the newspaper staff, for our countdown to New Year’s Eve. This is No. 3. Here’s the list so far:

10: Fans and supporters worked to save the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

9: Two big Black Lives Matter rallies took place in the Valley over the summer.

8: Liberty firefighter death prompts investigation.

7: Sammarone, Bozanich, Marchionda convicted in public corruption probe.

6: Diocese of Youngstown loses its shepherd; new bishop named.

5: 4-year-old Rowan Sweeney slain in Struthers.

4: Trump wins presidential races in Mahoning, Trumbull.

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