March 27, 2010 in Business

Moses Lake may be site of carbon-fiber plant

Eric Pryne Seattle Times
 

Moses Lake advantages

•Low-cost electricity

•Plenty of available land

•Big airport

•Proximity to Interstate 90

BMW and another German company apparently have chosen Moses Lake as the site for a new plant to manufacture carbon fibers to use in building lightweight cars.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to speak at a press conference April 6 in Seattle that also will feature top executives of BMW and SGL Group, which last fall established a joint venture to produce carbon fibers and fabric for the auto industry.

The press-conference notice did not reveal the subject, and an SGL spokeswoman did not immediately return calls Friday. A Gregoire spokeswoman declined comment, as did a spokesman for the Grant County Economic Development Council.

But the joint venture has been considering a site northwest of Moses Lake and a site in Canada for the fiber plant.

Moses Lake City Manager Joe Gavinski said he did not know if the companies had chosen his city. “They haven’t told us anything either,” he said.

Moses Lake has several advantages, Gavinski said, including low-cost electricity, plenty of available land, a big airport, and proximity to Interstate 90.

When they announced the joint venture last October, SGL, which makes carbon-based products, and BMW said a new factory in North America would make fibers that would be woven into fabrics at a new factory in Germany.

They said the construction of the plants would start in 2010, and they would employ a total of 180 workers. They also said the North American plant would use hydropower, a commodity Moses Lake and Grant County enjoy in abundance thanks to Columbia River dams.

BMW’s chairman said the automaker planned to use the carbon fabrics in its Megacity hybrid car, expected to reach the market in the next few years.

Panels made from carbon-fiber composites are built up from layers of such fabric, and then are baked to hardness. Composites are used to make the fuselage and wings of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

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