WOODCLIFF LAKE, NJ - A $100 million carbon fiber production plant will be built in Moses Lake, Wash., by BMW Group and SGL Group, the two companies announced.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and BMW executives anticipate other long-term manufacturing investments growing out of Tuesday's official announcement, which had been expected for months.
The factory will manufacture carbon fiber for BMW's proposed energy-efficient "Megacity Vehicle." The facility will be built by SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers LLC, a joint venture between the two Germany-based firms: BMW Group and SGL Group, a maker of carbon-based products.
The plant will employ 150 to 200 people during construction, and 80 people steadily during its first phase of operations, said Ted Bryer, deputy CEO of SGL Group, at the Tuesday press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle.
"We're building the most cost-effective carbon fiber plant in the world," he said.
For Gregoire, the announcement opens the door both to the auto industry and to other fiber composites industries in Washington state.
"We've never broken into the automotive industry, in any way," she said in an interview after the press conference, pointing to parallels with the state's use of composite materials in aerospace. "It's a seed for us to expand beyond airplanes and automobiles, into a wide array of consumer products that are made of carbon fibers."
Gregoire said she went to the Copenhagen Climate Conference in December "in large part" to follow up on a November meeting in Seattle with BMW and SGL officials about the graphite fiber project.
"You could not have walked away from Copenhagen without understanding a new day is dawning, we were either going to be part of it or let it get past us, so we went to work," she said.
Several speakers at the press conference gave Gregoire's office significant credit for the companies' choice of Washington. Her contributions included providing $275,000 from the governor's "strategic reserve account" to help develop training for workers at the planned facility, and helping to direct $2 million in federal stimulus funding to pay for some of the investment in energy-efficient parts of the facility.
"This $100 million investment for 80 jobs is simply the beginning," she said. "I'm excited we're in the automotive industry now, we're inching our way in, we're really inching our way into 21st century manufacturing materials for all kinds of consumer products."
Friedrich Eichiner, director of finance for BMW group, said the joint-venture carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake could lead to BMW manufacturing of composite components in Washington, if consumers want new energy-efficient BMW models as much as the company hopes.
"The future is uncertain, it could be much more than we anticipate today," he said. "(We're) actually at the starting point."
Eichiner said his company chose Moses Lake over a competing Canadian site largely due to competitive electricity rates in Grant County, but also because of Washington state's experience in carbon composites, in aerospace and other industries.
"It was important, that's where the expertise comes in, of course it's very important," adding that the company has made no decisions about any further manufacturing in Washington.