Valley’s battery-cell plant in gear for 2022 production
Editor’s note: This is the fourth-biggest story of 2021 in Mahoning County as voted by Vindicator staff.
By RON SELAK JR.
LORDSTOWN — It was in February when the last of the 14,000 steel beams that make up the skeleton of the Ultium Cells electric-vehicle battery-cell factory was set into place, marking a major milestone in the construction of the plant in Lordstown.
Outside of that, pretty much, the state-of-the-art plant has been absent among the headlines, yet work there has proceeded without fanfare and the plant remains on target to start production in August.
Now, exterior construction of the 3.1 million-square-foot structure is 95 percent complete. The building is enclosed and process equipment is being installed, said Brooke Waid, Ultium Cells spokeswoman. Remaining exterior work includes utilities, lobby entrance, perimeter fencing, final paving and landscaping and a traffic light on Tod Avenue SW.
Equipment installation, meanwhile, will be phased through 2023 for the multiple cell assembly lines. About 15 percent of the machinery is already in place.
Sitting on 158 acres adjacent to General Motors’ former assembly plant, Ultium Cells is a $2.3 billion joint venture between GM and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution to mass produce battery cells for electric vehicles.
It was the first of multiple battery-cell plants planned for Ultium in the U.S. to start construction.
The facility in Lordstown will employ upward of 1,100 at full capacity.
Waid said the company had about 150 employees at the end of 2021 and anticipates to be at 600 by the end of 2022 and at more than 1,100 by the end of 2023. Most recently, Ultium began hiring production and quality and maintenance employees.
It was in August when the plant made a bit of splash in the news with a visit by GM CEO Mary Barra and other senior members of the automaker’s executive team to see the progress there.
And there to meet them were Jim Tressel, Youngstown State University president, and Jennifer Oddo, the university’s executive director of strategic workforce education and innovation.
YSU is a partner with Ultium Cells to develop workforce training and technology advancement strategies.
Barra posted remarks regarding the visit on the social networking business community site LinkedIn, writing she is inspired by “the team’s passion for GM’s future with Ultium Cells LLC.”
“Each of you has a key role to play in achieving General Motors’ vision for an all-electric, zero-emissions future, and I look forward to continuing our work to create a better world,” Barra wrote.
Tressel said he and Oddo had limited time with Barra, but used it to discuss the university’s role in identifying and training the workforce needed by Ultium Cells.
“We’re working extremely hard with them to make sure that everyone in this region or outside of the region knows the employment opportunities, the culture of the place, the goals they have for the entire operation,” Tressel said.