Supporters of a new plant to produce carbon fibers for the automotive industry say it could become the largest facility of its kind in the world because of strong demand for the composites by German carmaker BMW AG.
Gov. Chris Gregoire lobbied hard for the SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers plant, a joint venture of BMW and SGL Group, a European carbon manufacturing company. Gregoire and other dignitaries will be on hand Thursday to celebrate the plant's official opening.
Depending on their application, carbon fiber composites can be lighter, stronger and far more durable than many metals. Boeing Co.'s new 787 jetliner is mostly made out of the material, and the composites are increasingly being used in the automotive industry.
The two companies also have talked about a possible partnership with the University of Washington for research into carbon fibers.
The carbon fibers manufactured at this plant will go into reinforced plastic parts for BMW's Megacity vehicle, a high-tech electric car.
The plant will initially employ about 80 people, but expansions are planned.
Low hydropower rates from Columbia River dams are drawing an increasing number of high-tech companies to Moses Lake and surrounding Grant County, where agriculture is still the major economic driver. Recent additions to the economy include a plant to make solar cell materials and several electricity-intensive computer server farms.