The company is using the Recovery Act loan to help fund a $4.5 million factory renovation that they anticipate will triple their capacity to manufacture flow batteries and power systems. The company has already been able to retain nearly a dozen workers as a result of the project and has begun initial hiring of new manufacturing technicians as well. Over time, the company estimates they will hire about 80 new workers as a result of the project.
Intelligent battery storage systems like ZBB’s are critical components of building a smart energy grid and expanding commercialization of electric vehicles because it allows users to cut costs by shifting energy use to off-peak hours and bank intermittent sources of energy like the sun and wind for future use.
ZBB established operations in Wisconsin in 1994 and today exports its renewable power and storage systems around the globe to clients ranging from utility companies and renewable energy generation facilities to corporations and military installations. The $1.3 million loan they received is part of the $55.5 million in Recovery Act State Energy Program funding the state of Wisconsin is using to transform its industrial sector through targeted investments in clean energy manufacturing. Wisconsin’s Recovery Act SEP funding – which Governor Jim Doyle decided to direct entirely to support clean energy manufacturing – will according to recipients create 775 jobs over the life of their projects, while saving nearly 5,000 jobs.
Beyond the direct public-private investment in the expansion of manufacturing capability at the existing facility, the company is also beginning to see an indirect impact from Recovery Act smart grid and electric vehicle investments and has secured a $14.68 million Recovery Act 48c Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit to construct a new manufacturing facility in Southeastern Wisconsin as the company grows. President Obama has called on Congress to extend the 48c tax credit, including an additional $5 billion, so that more companies can take advantage of this important incentive to invest in America’s clean energy manufacturing capacity.
"It’s good to be here with the folks of ZBB Energy. I just had the chance to see some of the batteries you’re manufacturing here – and talk to the men and women who build them. The reason I’m here today is because, at this plant, you’re doing more than just making high-tech batteries. You’re pointing the country towards a brighter economic future.
That’s not easy. We’ve been through a terrible recession – as bad as we’ve seen since the Great Depression. And this recession was the culmination of a decade that fell like a sledgehammer on middle-class families. For the better part of ten years, people faced stagnant incomes, sluggish job growth, skyrocketing health care costs and tuition bills, and declining economic security.
Few parts of the economy were hit harder than manufacturing. Over the last ten years, the number of people working in manufacturing shrank by a third. This has left millions of skilled, hardworking people sitting idle as the plants that they once worked in shut their doors. And that was before the recession left them and millions of others struggling in ways they never imagined.
Now, there are some who suggest this decline is inevitable. But I don’t see it that way – and neither do you. Yes, times are tough. But we have been through tough times before. And we’ve made it through because we’re resilient – because we have never given in to pessimism or cynicism. We fight for our future and we shape our own destiny. Well, that’s what we’ve been doing over the past year and half. We have been fighting on all fronts – inch by inch, foot by foot, mile by mile – to get this country moving forward again, going after every job we can.
We’re investing in 21st century infrastructure – in roads and bridges, in faster internet access and high-speed railroads – projects that will lead to hundreds of thousands of private-sector jobs. We’ve cut taxes for small businesses that hire unemployed workers, and I’ve signed seven other small business tax cuts to help folks expand, buy new equipment, and add employees. And we’ve taken emergency steps to prevent layoffs of hundreds of thousands of teachers, firefighters, police officers, and other critical public servants in our communities. These are folks who would have otherwise lost their jobs because of state and local budget cuts.
At the same time, we’ve been jumpstarting a homegrown, clean energy industry – building on the good work of your governor and others in this state. That’s why I’m here today. Because of the steps we’ve taken to strengthen the economy, ZBB received a loan that’s helping to fund an expansion of their operations. Already, it’s allowed ZBB to retain nearly a dozen workers. Over time, the company expects to hire about 80 new workers, too. And this is leading to new business for your suppliers, including MGS Plastics, another manufacturer here in Wisconsin.
ZBB is also planning to take advantage of a special tax credit to build another factory in Southeastern Wisconsin to create more jobs. They are confident they can expand because they are seeing rising demand for advanced batteries. This is in part a result of steps we’ve taken in clean energy – steps that have led to jobs manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels, building hybrid and electric vehicles, and modernizing our electric grid so that it can use more renewable sources of energy.
We expect our commitment to clean energy to lead to more than 800,000 jobs by 2012. And this isn’t just creating work in the short term – it’s helping to lay a new foundation for lasting growth. Just a few years ago, for example, American businesses made only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.
But in just a few years, we’ll have up to 40 percent of the world’s capacity. Here at ZBB, you’re building batteries to store electricity from solar cells and wind turbines. And you’ve been able to export batteries around the globe, helping us to lead in this new industry. For years, we’ve heard about manufacturing jobs disappearing overseas. Companies like this one are showing us how manufacturing jobs can come back.
Now, obviously, the progress we’ve made isn’t nearly enough to undo all the damage that was done by the recession. Too many of our family members, our friends, our neighbors are still unable to find work – often for long stretches of time. I’ve said since I took office that my administration will not rest until every American who is able and willing to work can find a job, and a job that pays a decent wage with decent benefits to support a family.
But what’s clear is that we are heading in the right direction. Just a year and a half ago, the economy was shrinking rapidly. Now the economy is growing. We were bleeding 750,000 jobs each month. Now the economy has added private-sector jobs for seven months in a row. The worst mistake we could make now would be to turn back. We’ve got to keep moving forward.
But some folks in Washington argue we should abandon these efforts. These are the same folks in Washington who made the political calculation that it was better to stand on the sidelines than work as a team to help the American worker. They said no to small business tax cuts, no to rebuilding infrastructure, no to clean energy projects. They even voted against getting rid of tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas.
Well, my answer to the folks who have played politics the past year and a half is to come to this plant. They should go to any of the dozen new battery factories, or the new electric vehicle manufacturers, or the wind turbine makers, or solar plants that are popping up all over this country. I want them to explain why they think these clean energy jobs are better off in other countries instead of right here in the United States.
See, when folks lift up the hoods on the cars of the future, I want them to see engines stamped "Made in America." When new batteries to store solar power come off assembly lines, I want to see printed on the side, "Made in America." And when new technologies are developed with the potential to unleash new businesses – and even whole new industries – I want those products to be made in America. That’s how we’ll create jobs. That’s how we’ll strengthen this economy.
These have been a very hard couple of years for America. And there will be some more difficult days ahead. It would a mistake to pretend otherwise. But we are headed in the right direction. And I am confident about our future. Because of what I have seen at this plant. Because of what I have seen taking place across this country. And because, when the chips are down, it is always a mistake to bet against the American worker.
This nation is home to the most skilled and industrious people on this earth. There is nothing we cannot achieve when we set our minds to it. All we need to do is harness the potential that has always been central to our success. That’s not only how we’ll come through these storms – that’s how we’ll emerge stronger than ever before.