Entek CEO: Room for more growth in Terre Haute
The CEO of Oregon-based Entek says the company has eyes on continued growth in the Wabash Valley. The battery component producer on Tuesday announced plans to invest $1.5 billion to establish a battery separator manufacturing campus at the former Pfizer property in the Vigo County Industrial Park II in Terre Haute and create nearly 650 jobs.
Larry Keith says the growing demand for batteries, particularly in the electric vehicle industry, creates “a tremendous amount of growth opportunity for us beyond this.”
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Keith discussed the reasoning for choosing Indiana for the new operation.
“We looked at a lot of sites, and this site had many attractions for us: the state and local benefits [and] incentive packages they have. The site is shovel ready; it’s got all the gas water power available. It’s in an industrial park,” said Keith. “We like the education system that Terre Haute – or Indiana, I should say – is offering. Having an Ivy Tech down the street’s a benefit. Working with the redevelopment group was really a good experience. They welcomed us, and it just rose to the top of this surface there.”
The campus, which will initially include four buildings totaling 1.4 million square feet, will produce battery separators for lithium-ion battery manufacturers across the country.
“It’s a micro-porous membrane that goes between the positive and negative side, or the anode and cathode, that insulates the batteries from shorting out,” said Keith. “So, the pores are small enough that the battery won’t short out, but it allows the ions to flow between the positive and negative place.”
Entek says the Terre Haute operation is the first phase of an expansion that will produce about 1.4 billion square meters of ceramic coated lithium separators. However, the need for more batteries will fuel further phases to increase that number.
“With the amount of growth that has been announced [in] battery production, there’s about 1.1 terawatts of power,” he said. “And that 1.1 terawatts of power would require about 8 billion square meters of separator.”
Once all phases are complete, Entek said it will have the capacity to produce enough separators to support about 3.5 million electric vehicles annually.
The first phase in Terre Haute is slated to have eight production lines, but Keith said plans call for up to 18 in total. He said the company is already working on finding the workforce needed to fill the hundreds of open jobs.
“We’ve already had people reaching out to us. Local recruiters, the colleges are wanting to engage early, the Ivy Tech, for example,” he said. “One of the first positions we plan to hire will be our HR manager, and we’ll have the HR manager here early on in the process to start that early recruitment.”
The company expects to break ground as soon as all the necessary permitting is in place. Production could start as early as 2025.