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Missouri Wants $50M For Battery-Makers

State senators are seeking to use $50 million in federal stimulus funds to entice a pair of high-tech, Missouri battery-makers to expand in the state.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- State senators are seeking to use $50 million in federal stimulus funds to entice a pair of high-tech, Missouri battery-makers to expand in the state.

Senators said Tuesday that the money is intended to benefit Kokam America Inc. of Lee's Summit and EaglePicher Technologies LLC of Joplin. Both companies are looking to expand their production of lithium ion batteries.

The Senate Appropriations Committee added the subsidies to a House bill that now is estimated to spend about $365 million from the stimulus package for projects across the state, including a new Highway Patrol radio system and various university buildings. The revised bill now goes to the full Senate, and also would have to be approved again by the House.

The $50 million incentive pool for battery-makers is a more narrowly tailored version of a $200 million pot of stimulus money that Gov. Jay Nixon had proposed to provide cash incentives to businesses looking to startup, locate or expand in Missouri.

"What we're trying to do here is catalyze an entire industry," said Department of Economic Development Director Linda Martinez.

Nixon has pointed to Michigan, which provided $145 million worth of tax incentives to a partnership that includes Kokam America and Dow Chemical Co. to build an 800,000 square-foot lithium battery plant for hybrid and electric vehicles.

Kokam president Don Nissanka has said his company also hopes to expand its existing plant and build another 800,000-square-foot plant in Missouri.

EaglePicher Technologies President Randy Moore said Tuesday that his company is seeking to partner with a utility company on a project that would employ about 600 people in the Joplin area. He said the planned expansion would use lithium ion battery technology in conjunction with a wind-generated power plant.

The company is seeking funds from the U.S. Department of Energy through a competitive grant program created under the stimulus package to improve the nation's electric grid. The money provided by Missouri -- by tapping a different part of the federal stimulus package -- could help win the federal grant, he said.

Moore said the double-dose of stimulus money is essential to the company's plans.

"'Plan A' is Department of Energy and the state of Missouri, and 'Plan B' isn't very pretty," he said.

Under the Missouri legislation, two battery technology companies could receive up to $25 million each through forgivable loans to build new production plants that create at least 500 jobs. To qualify, the companies also would have to receive at least $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy, and the projects would have to cost at least $150 million.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Nodler, R-Joplin, said he is a strong supporter of the proposed subsidies.

"These are not theoretical jobs," Nodler said. "These are jobs that are being created. The question is whether they will be created in Texas or Tennessee or Ohio or Missouri."

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