By Morgan Watkins | The Gainesville Sun
Encell Technology, a company that designs battery storage and management systems, is exploring the possibility of establishing a manufacturing operation in Alachua County projected to create 167 jobs for workers with a wide range of educational backgrounds and an average salary greater than $70,000.
The company already has a research and development laboratory based in the county just outside Alachua, as well as locations in Boston and a couple other areas, Chief Financial Officer Chris Maier said.
Founded in 2006, Encell has spent several years and millions of dollars in its quest to build a better battery.
Now that it has developed its rechargeable battery, Maier said, Encell Technology is ready to begin manufacturing the product and plans to begin selling it to a worldwide market sometime next year.
The Alachua County Commission on Tuesday approved Encell's request to participate in the Qualified Target Industry program in a 4-1 vote.
This is a tax-refund program that provides incentives for high-wage job creation in targeted industries. The state pays 80 percent of the tax refund while local governments — in this case, Alachua County — pay 20 percent of it.
Commissioner Mike Byerly, who voted against Encell's request, said Tuesday he doesn't support the QTI program but that this proposal "sorely tested" his opposition because it's a great opportunity.
Encell is considering expanding in Phoenix Commercial Park on U.S. 441, which is in unincorporated Alachua County, according to county documents. Maier, of Encell, said the company wants to buy one of the buildings on the old Energizer property, but it also is considering locations in Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina.
Florida is its No. 1 choice, and Alachua County is its top pick within the Sunshine State, Maier said.
Encell is currently in negotiations for the local site's purchase. Its research and development lab already is based within the Energizer building it wants to purchase, Maier said. Encell is using only about 30,000 square feet right now but wants to utilize the full property of approximately 180,000 square feet.
Maier listed the area's decades-long history of housing battery manufacturing operations as one benefit of locating in the county, as well as the site's proximity to the University of Florida and Santa Fe College and the nearness of Interstate 75 for transportation purposes.
With new graduates pouring out of UF and Santa Fe every year, this is a great place for hiring new talent, he said.
If Encell decides to locate its expansion here and joins the QTI program, the county would make a $233,800 financial contribution payable over several years.
Encell expects to create 167 jobs over six years with an average annual salary of $73,770 plus benefits with an average value of $15,000, according to county documents. The county's financial commitment is dependent on how many jobs the company creates.
The company plans to manage its full process at the facility, from the research and development work it already is doing to product development and assembly. It will need everything from assembly workers to engineers working there.
"It's really a nice kind of cross-section for really different education and experience backgrounds," Maier said.
Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said Tuesday he was glad this expansion would create manufacturing jobs — not just for people with master's or doctoral degrees but for individuals without those degrees, as well.
If Encell decides to locate here and is officially brought into the QTI program, this won't just be a significant change for area workers but for the company as well. Encell currently has 28 full-time employees, 20 of whom are based in Alachua County.
The manufacturing facility would expand Encell's workforce considerably as well as the scope of its activities.
"We've got to turn from a research and development company into a manufacturing company," Maier said.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org,