Failed battery-plant site recharged


Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

From the "ashes" of the failed Moltech Power Systems battery plant south of the city of Alachua on U.S. 441, the newly renamed Phoenix Commercial Park is starting to stir with more business activity.

The site will not have the 1,000 to 2,000 jobs it did when Energizer was manufacturing batteries there in the mid-'90s, but a newly announced sailboat manufacturer, along with two battery related businesses and a custom motorcycle shop will likely total more than 100 jobs. Additional space is available for potential office, warehouse or small manufacturing businesses.

Phoenix — owned by the Hipp Construction family — closed a sale last week on two-thirds of the 75-acre battery complex from Battery Park Industries Inc.

"This is a feather in the cap to the community, to take a place that was becoming derelict, give it a facelift and make it a positive player," said Nelson Citta, project manager for Phoenix.

Hunter Composite Technologies announced Tuesday that it is relocating from East Lyme, Conn., and will bring 10 jobs. Phoenix is renovating 42,000 square feet of the 180,000-square-foot north building for HCT, which expects to move in and start manufacturing 14-21-foot composite plastic sailboats in 60-90 days. HCT is a division Luhrs Marine Group of St. Augustine, which also owns Alachua sailboat manufacturer Hunter Marine.

Electro Energy Inc. of Danbury, Conn., is leasing a 175,000-square-foot battery plant and equipment from Phoenix, as well as the adjacent 190,000-square-foot metal dust "centering" building still owned by BPI. Electro officials did not respond to calls in time to comment, but Citta said he thought they might bring 80 jobs. Much of the center facility would likely be scrapped, he said.

Electro announced plans last summer to lease the property to manufacture a "high volume" of high-powered, rechargeable batteries. Among the products would be batteries used in hybrid vehicles.

Citta also owns Alachua County Choppers, a custom motorcycle shop operating in 20,000 square feet in the north building.

A startup battery manufacturer, G4 Synergetics Corp., is in the process of setting up a research and development shop in a 35,000-square-foot building on the south end of the property, which once housed a battery testing facility.

General Electric opened the battery plant in the early 1960s. GE sold the facility in 1987 to Gates Energy Products, which six years later sold the business to Energizer Power Systems/Eveready Battery Co. Energizer sold the plant to Moltech Power Systems in 1999. Moltech filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2001. It transferred its debts to Battery Park Industries Inc. U.S. Lithium Energetics operated in the facility from 2003-05.

Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@gvillesun.com or (352) 374-5094.

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