Battery maker will power economy

Susan Parkou Weinstein

There are no chemicals in the wall-to-wall rugs at Electrochem’s new plant in Raynham Woods Commerce Center.

The cooling and heating systems are super-efficient.

Desert plants will soon transform the roof into the Arizona landscape, minimizing water run-off, insulating the building and filtering pollutants.

But there’s more “green” to the building than its earth-friendly design.

The $30 million facility will keep hundreds of skilled manufacturing jobs in the area and generate $220,000 a year in property taxes for the town.

“We appreciate your confidence in Massachusetts and your investment in this state,” Daniel O’Connell, secretary of Housing and Economic Development, told company executives at an Aug. 15 ribbon cutting ceremony.

Electrochem, a subsidiary of Greatbatch Ltd., makes high-performance lithium cells and battery packs for NASA, the U.S. military, Halliburton, and North Sea oil-drilling companies.

In 2005, it outgrew its space in Canton – reaching a five-year growth projection in two years – and searched as far away as Mexico, China and Indonesia for new premises.

Town Planner Richard McCarthy and former Selectman Ray Platt lured the business to Raynham with tax breaks and a promise to get the job done in less than a year.

“This is one of the crown jewels for the town of Raynham,” McCarthy said outside the 82,000-square-foot building. “We met the challenge and these are the results.”

“This is impressive. What a phenomenal accomplishment,” Thomas Hook, Greatbatch chief executive officer, said.

Most of the company’s 200 employees live within the Route 24 corridor between Brockton and Fall River. Another 30 or 40 workers will be hired during the transition.

A 40,000-square-foot expansion is also planned, producing an estimated 15 more jobs.

The so-called tax increment financing deal between the town and Electrochem gives the company a $1 million break in property taxes over 10 years.

But the building will generate $1.8 million in new tax revenue over the same period, making Electrochem the second highest local taxpayer after Depuy/Johnson & Johnson.

The process of making lithium batteries combines a powder and an electrolyte solution, using carbon nitrate, lithium chloride and stainless steel.

The project required permitting from a number of town, state and local planning, conservation and health boards and the Department of Environmental Protection.

After the Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Electrochem for violations of workplace safety in 2006, the company hired Jon Levis to serve as safety and environmental manager.

The Massachusetts Safety Council and OSHA this year recognized Electrochem for its “excellence in workplace safety,” Levis said.

Earlier this year, the town received a $1 million MORE (Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation Expansion) jobs grant to fix the drainage problems along Paramount Drive and allow the commerce park to expand.

The state also approved 5 percent tax break for Electrochem.

O’Connell later said the investment will pay off for years.

“We expect this business to triple in size in terms of sales,” he said. “That means more good, skilled manufacturing jobs.”

Headquartered in Buffalo, Greatbatch invented the first successful implantable heart pacemaker and medical battery in 1970. It branched into lithium battery production 25 years ago.

Raynham Call