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Nothing Like Building Stuff

Today, Boston-Power announced that it plans to build a state-of-the art battery manufacturing facility in Auburn, MA, near Worcester.

Like many companies these days, Boston-Power has applied to the federal government for a grant of about $100M to help build the factory.  The facility would be used to build a new product, Swing, to be used in hybrid electric vehicles.  If the federal government is going to spend money to subsidize industry, this is the type of thing the taxpayers should be funding.

First of all, we need new batteries to power hybrid electrc vehicles.  These vehicles lower our dependence on imported oil.  And, we need to build these batteries in the US to be close to US manufacturer supply chains.  Also, we can export these batteries to international manufacturers.  Lastly, Boston Power plans to hire 600 people at a factory in central Massachusetts where new jobs are generally lacking.  Getting good jobs building stuff is a key to our economy.

We need to continue to develop new technology that we can manufacture here and export elsewhere.  It's so much harder to solve our employment problems with service jobs, which generally are lower paying.  Instead, our economy needs to find high-margin, innovative products that we can build here.

One key part of building them here is that the rest of the supply chain needs to be here.  Boston-Power also manufactures laptop batteries, including supplying batteries for the HP Enviro Battery.  But, these batteries are manufactured in Asia to be close to the rest of the laptop supply chain.  Even if we could build laptop batteries more cheaply in the US than in Asia, you'd lose money shipping the batteries from the US to where the laptops are built.

Let's hope Boston Power is awarded these grants so that we can start to build more high-tech stuff in the US (and Massachusetts).

Disclaimer: I was a board member of Boston-Power for several years and am currently an advisor to the company.


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