Battery-maker plans $21M investment in Vandalia plant

John Busbee has big plans for a big plant in Vandalia off Interstate 75.

Busbee brought his battery business from Colorado and Illinois first to Kettering’s Miami Valley Research Park three years ago, and now to a sprawling former Delphi plant, where he plans to make batteries and components for military, automotive, aviation and other customers.

The 700,000-plus-square-foot plant off Northwoods Boulevard could be home to 1,200 employees in five years, predicted Busbee, chief executive of Xerion Advanced Battery Corp.

And he is moving into the plant at a time when the electric vehicle market is getting renewed attention and investment. General Motors just announced last week a joint venture with South Korean battery maker LG Chem to create a new battery-production operation in the area of Lordstown, Ohio.

GM and LG will each invest about $1 billion into that plant, which will have about 1,100 employees.

Xerion touts its materials and batteries as having particularly “high power, high energy, fast charge, and reduced cost” attributes. One of his chief innovations are “electroplated” battery electrodes, which the company believes can store more energy than today’s best models.

Xerion still has a presence in Kettering’s Miami Valley Research Park as the company slowly starts to refurbish the Northwoods plant. Repainting, repaving, some demolition and other work are starting.

“As they say, it has good bones,” Martin Rucidlo, Xerion director of operations, said of the plant structure.

The plant is far from empty, however.

Transportation equipment manufacturer Dayton Phoenix Group moved into the plant last June after the Memorial Day tornadoes tore apart its Kuntz Road plant.

DPG is temporarily taking up more than 300,000 square feet of the Northwoods plant today while its Dayton plant is being rebuilt. It plans to shift work back to Dayton late next year.

“It was really good for us, and it was really good for them,” Busbee said of the arrangement with DPG.

Retail display manufacturer iDX is also taking up about 50,000 square feet of the plant, mostly for storage. iDX has a permanent Dayton presence on Needmore Road.

In time, the plant — which Busbee bought from MAHLE Behr, who bought it from Delphi — will produce four different revenue-producing lines, batteries, battery materials, cobalt metal and electrodes.

Busbee also purchased 34 acres directly to the west of the plant for possible future expansions. He declined to say what he paid for the properties, but he plans to invest about $21 million into the building.

“You could say we got a good deal on it,” he said.

Xerion has about 40 employees today. In two years, Busbee expects about 155 employees in Vandalia, with the workforce growing in phases to 600 to beyond 1,000 after that.

Citing non-disclosure agreements, Busbee said he is working with global companies in a number of industries. “We are having really good traction with these large companies,” he said.

Applications for his products include military uses for soldiers and drones. Automotive applications and personal electronics, such as tablets and phones, are also possibilities.

Xerion was founded in 2010 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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