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Faces of the Recovery Act: Johnson Controls Inc.


Thanks in part to a $300 million grant through the Recovery Act, Johnson Controls is re-opening a plant in Holland, Michigan that is now being retrofitted to produce batteries that will power tomorrow's electric cars.
Elizabeth Rolinski, Ray Shemanski,
Energy Department Video

ELIZABETH ROLINSKI:  I was in this plant when it first started up.  I was plant manager here many years ago and then, unfortunately, when it came time to close the plant, also did that plant announcement.  It’s a team I knew very well, a team I was with for a lot of years.  So when the time came and the decision was made to close the plant, it was a very emotional event for me.

RAY SHEMANSKI:  When we were looking for our locations for the next facility, we had a number of them in mind, including a lot of locations overseas.  The real enabler to us putting this facility in Michigan was the grant award that we received through the recovery act along – combined with incentives from the state of Michigan.

MS. ROLINSKI:  The recovery act really does give a lot of hope for those people that want to come back to the community, whether they were graduates that didn’t have jobs or they moved to find a job, that they’re going to be able to come back.

MR. SHEMANSKI:  In 2010 our company will celebrate our 125th anniversary.  In our automotive business, we supply seats and interior products.  In our battery business, the odds are, if you’re in North America, anyways, that battery is from Johnson Controls.  Your lead-acid battery is primarily used to start your vehicle, light the lights.  But in the future, the battery is going to be the drivetrain of your vehicle.  Your internal combustion engine will potentially disappear and be replaced with a battery pack that is the power source within your vehicle.  And the United States has got to electrify their vehicle network in order to help reduce the amount of CO2 emissions that are globally going into the atmosphere.

MS. ROLINSKI:  We’re going to need an extremely high-performing team.  We’re going to need to bring in the culture that we want to have.

MR. SHEMANSKI:  Today there’s not one of these built in the United States.  I mean, our vision with this plant is that we get to the point where we’re building 15 million of these cells in this facility at an annual basis.

MS. ROLINSKI:  The project right now, what you’re going to see at Meadowbrook, is an empty plant because there’s the four or five of us starting to come together, taking out the trash.  (Chuckles.)  And we’ve been in the design phase.  (Background conversation.)  So that means what has to happen to the building and how is it going to be laid out.

Where we’re standing right now is where our pack assembly is going to come in, and that’s the first part of our process.  So actually, that’s coming in very soon.  We’re going to have equipment and materials coming into the dock doors right here, so we’ve got to get that ready.  Just recently, we’ve been writing the tech specs for the equipment and getting those out for proposals and reviewing the proposals and –

MR. SHEMANSKI:  I had a discussion with Elizabeth a minute ago, and she says every day she gets a number of calls.  There’s just a buzz in the community right now.

MS. ROLINSKI:  So to come back now and open this plant and have some of the same people calling and very interested in coming back and excited about the opportunity is – it’s an emotional event for me, and it’s just a huge deal for all those people and the community as well.

(To Cub Scouts.)  Do you guys in your math classes yet ever have a math problem that is so long you might not get the right answer, but at least you get partial credit?


(Background conversation.)

MS. ROLINSKI:  You know, for those kids that are sitting there, those Cub Scouts, and they’re talking about pollution, and they’re talking about $4 a gallon gas prices, the evolution they’re going to see is very likely in the transportation industry.  You know, we don’t want the kids to grow up and leave the community necessarily.  We want them to grow up, get a good technical basic and support the industries here.  And we’re going to need them.  It seems like it’s a long ways away for Cub Scouts, but it goes fast.  (Chuckles.)