Officials: Energy Companies Eyeing Closed Ford Plant

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Two alternative energy companies plan to buy a shuttered Ford Motor Co. factory in southeast Michigan and convert it into a renewable energy park that could employ at least 2,800 workers within five years, energy company leaders told state lawmakers Wednesday.

Xtreme Power of Kyle, Texas, and Clairvoyant Energy of Santa Barbara, Calif., said they want to purchase the sprawling 320-acre Wixom Assembly Plant if state tax incentives and federal loans are approved. Ford said it plans to sell the factory to the companies.

Officials said Xtreme could hire 2,500 workers between late 2011 and 2014, with the potential to create another 10,000 supplier-related jobs -- 1,500 at or near the plant. Clairvoyant could hire 300 employees.

Xtreme makes energy storage systems for utilities, wind farms and large manufacturers. The large batteries store energy during the night that can be used in the day.

Clairvoyant builds rooftop solar power stations. It is helping build the world's largest rooftop solar plant at a General Motors Corp. plant in Spain.

The companies would refurbish the Wixom plant, which closed in 2007 after churning out cars for 50 years. Half the space would be used to make the companies' own products; the rest would be leased to suppliers and other renewable energy companies. Xtreme and Clairvoyant are looking to also add a university research facility to the site, where workers could be trained.

"We are looking forward to locating here in Michigan," Xtreme Power CEO Carlos Co told the House New Economy and Qualify of Life Committee. Legislators started approving tax breaks Wednesday.

"It's plant ready. We're ready to go. We can start these jobs quickly," Wixom Mayor Kevin Hinkley said.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has previously mentioned the possibility of an energy project at Wixom.

Xtreme and Clairvoyant face a Sept. 14 deadline to apply for federal loans for renewable energy projects. But the officials said before the companies submit their applications, Michigan must approve $100 million in refundable tax credits for advanced battery production and a $25 million tax break for solar-based manufacturing -- along with increasing the number of job-creation tax credits from the Michigan Economic Growth Authority.

Other projects, including an amusement park, have been proposed for the site. But officials called the energy park a better deal because jobs there could pay an average $40,000 a year and the plant would not have to be leveled, bringing jobs and tax revenue sooner.

Company officials said they like the Wixom site because it has a rail line, a big electricity grid and is close to a major interstate, making it easier to bring in supplies and ship out products.

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