Lithium battery maker to employ hundreds in Kentucky plant

A maker of lithium batteries is promising to provide an economic jolt to the Appalachian region, announcing plans Friday to relocate from California to Kentucky and build a factory employing hundreds of workers in an area reeling from the coal industry’s decline.

EnerBlu Inc. announced it will invest $372 million and create 875 full-time jobs in eastern Kentucky with the production facility in Pikeville. The company also will move its headquarters from Riverside, California, bringing another $40 million investment and 110 administrative, research-and-development and executive jobs to Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority has given preliminary approval for incentives worth up to $30 million over 15 years for EnerBlu’s facilities.

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers were among state and regional leaders who gathered in Pikeville to cheer EnerBlu’s announcement. The governor predicted the company’s arrival would transform a region where coal jobs have disappeared.

“We are not going to live down to the stereoptypes people have of us,” the governor said. “We’re going to dispel those, and we’re going to rise above them and blow people’s minds.”

Rogers, who represents eastern Kentucky, called the announcement a “big step” toward “evolving the economy of a whole region.”

It shows other businesses that eastern Kentucky “is a good place to be,” the Republican congressman said. “This is where we’ve got a lot of workers needing work that are … capable, ready to go,” he said.

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