Manufacturer of material for electric vehicle batteries bringing 562 jobs to Hopkinsville

A second automotive sector plant will employ 157

MIcrovast will be adjacent to Ascend Elements, which is currently under construction in Commerce Park in Hopkinsville. (Hoptown Chronicle photo by Jennifer P. Brown)

Two new manufacturing plants, one making material for electric vehicle batteries, will be constructed in Hopkinsville, creating more than 700 jobs over the next couple of years, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on March 30.

Microvast Advanced Membrane Inc. will invest $504 million in a 350,000-square-foot facility and employ 562 workers at Commerce Park II on John Rivers Road. Using a patented process, Microvast will produce polyaramid base film for lithium ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Construction is expected to begin this year and be completed by March 2025, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

In a separate announcement, Beshear said Toyota Boshoku America Inc. will invest more than $225 million for an automotive sector plant employing 157 workers at South Park off Fort Campbell Boulevard near Interstate 24. A press release from the governor’s office said construction will start this June and be completed in August 2024. 

The two projects are expected to require incentives from city and county governments, which have not yet been approved. However, on Thursday the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority preliminarily approved state incentives for both.

KEDFA approved a 15-year, performance-based incentive that can provide up to $18 million in tax incentives based on Microvast’s investment of $504 million. It must create and maintain 562 full-time jobs over 15 years for Kentucky residents, and it must pay an average hourly wage of $25, including benefits, across those jobs. 

For Toyota Boshoku America, KEDFA approved a 15-year, performance-based incentive that can provide up to $6 million in tax incentives based on the company’s planned investment of $225 million. It must create and maintain 157 full-time jobs over 15 years for Kentucky residents, and it must pay an average hourly wage of $40, including benefits, across those jobs. 

KEDFA also OK’d up to $3 million in tax incentives for Microvast through the Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act, which allows companies to recoup state sales and use taxes on “construction costs, building fixtures, equipment used in research and development and electronic processing.”

The same incentive for Toyota Boshoku America will be good for up to $500,000.

Microvast will be constructed on a parcel of roughly 100 acres adjacent to the Ascend Elements plant that is under construction in Commerce Park II, which is itself under development. Ascend, projected to be a $1 billion facility, will produce lithium-ion materials for electric-vehicle batteries.

With its first operation in Kentucky, Microvast “intends to build the world’s first mass production facility for its cutting-edge polyaramid separator technology,” the governor’s press release states. “Polyaramid is a high temperature-resistant, fire-retardant aromatic polyamide, which is commonly used in firefighting garments and insulating papers. … Unlike the current widely used polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP) based separators in lithium-ion batteries, which melt at approximately 135 degrees Celsius and 165 degrees Celsius, respectively, Microvast’s patented polyaramid separator is capable of resisting temperatures in excess of 300 degrees Celsius.”

Beshear hailed the Microvast announcement as “another major investment in the state’s rapidly growing electric vehicle (EV) sector.”

Ford in 2021 announced plans to manufacture advanced lithium-ion batteries in Kentucky to power Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles at BlueOval SK Battery Park n Glendale In Hardin County. The plant is expected to open in 2025 and employ 5,000 people.

Ford also is building BlueOval City in west Tennessee where the company will build next-generation electric F-Series pickups and advanced batteries.

Microvast is based in Stafford, Texas. The company has three production sites worldwide, including the 2 gigawatt-plus site in Clarksville, Tennessee, that is expected to start production late this year. 

“Kentucky continues to position itself as the top EV-related manufacturing location in the country,” said Beshear. “We are committed to creating an environment where the industries of the future can grow and thrive right here in the commonwealth, and Microvast’s investment is a huge step toward that goal.”

Mayor James R. Knight Jr., Christian County Judge-Executive Jerry Gilliam and South Western Kentucky Economic Development Council Executive Director Carter Hendricks each praised the Microvast and Toyota Boshoku America announcements. 

Toyota Boshoku America, also called TBA, will build a 365,000-square-foot plant on a 49-acre parcel in South Park near the Walmart Distribution Center on Crenshaw Boulevard. 

“The plant will be the first TBA location globally to be considered a ‘Smart Plant,’” the release states. “The facility will employ innovative, cutting-edge technologies such as advanced robotics, planning and automation to streamline processes, reduce waste and enhance productivity to maximize efficiency and operations. By implementing these technologies, the company will create a more efficient and environmentally responsible operation that will serve as a model for others to follow. The new facility will be the company’s fifth location in the commonwealth.”

TBA and its affiliates employ more than 12,000 workers in 22 sites in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. The company manufactures “automotive interior systems, which include seat, door trim, headliner, substrate and carpet in addition to air and oil filters for a variety of customers such as Toyota, BMW and Subaru.”

There are three TBA plants in Kentucky — at Bardstown, Harrodsburg and Lebanon — and the Hopkinsville plant will bring total employment in the state to 1,100. The release does not provide specific details about what TBA will make in Hopkinsville. 

This story may be updated. 

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Jennifer P. Brown, Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is the publisher, editor and co-founder of Hoptown Chronicle. She has been writing about Hopkinsville for 35 years — first as a reporter and editor for the Kentucky New Era for three decades and more recently as an independent journalist. Brown co-chairs the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky and is governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society. She is a co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition. She serves on the Community Advisory Board of WKMS, the public radio station at Murray State University. Brown earned the Bachelor of Science in Journalism at Murray and the MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Goucher College, Baltimore.