Nanotechnology firm locating in Lexington

Planned research center draws nGimat to lexington

ssloan@herald-leader.comJuly 30, 2010 

Researchers at nGimat's facility in Georgia work with the company's nanoengineered materials that are used, among other things, as coatings for various products.

COURTESY NGIMAT — Courtesy nGimat

An Atlanta company announced Thursday it plans to open a laboratory in Lexington to develop nanomaterials to be used in the next generation of automotive batteries.

The company, nGimat, plans to hire 18 people during the next three years at an average salary of $58,500. It also expects to hire an additional 50 full-time employees in production and administrative positions.

Lexington was chosen, officials say, because of the planned construction here of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center.

"Federal research centers are known for their ability to help attract high-tech companies that want to work with state-of-the-art scientific facilities," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a statement.

Founded in 1994, nGimat develops coatings and nanopowders for a wide variety of products such as cell phones and fuel cells.

In Lexington, the company plans to develop nanomaterials to aid in energy storage in the next generation of batteries as well as electrical grids.

The products "will enable more cost-effective, more powerful and longer-lasting versions of these batteries," nGimat CEO Andrew Hunt said in a statement.

Officials predict that many high-tech firms will join nGimat in locating near the battery research center, which will break ground in the fall.

The battery center is a partnership of the state, Argonne National Laboratory near Chicago, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. It plans to develop a lithium-ion battery that can be used by the country's ailing automotive industry for use in electric and hybrid cars.

Kentucky lost its bid earlier this year for hundreds of millions in federal stimulus dollars to build a manufacturing plant for those batteries, but that had no effect on the planned research and development center proposed for Lexington.

In fact, the state has approved a $3.5 million grant that will be used to buy equipment to help test batteries, certain capacitors and other energy-storage systems. The state's money will be matched with $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Defense or the Kentucky State Energy Program.

State money also was approved Thursday to assist nGimat in locating here. The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved three sets of tax incentives including a forgivable loan of up to $250,000 through the state's High-Tech Investment Pool. The company also was approved for up to $550,000 through the state's Kentucky Business Investment program, as well as up to $60,000 through a program that allows companies to recoup sales and use taxes paid on construction costs and equipment.

The forgivable loan requires the company to create 18 jobs by June 2012 and maintain them for an additional three years. The KBI funding is contingent on 50 jobs being created during the next 10 years, according to state documents.

Reach Scott Sloan at (859) 231-1447 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1447.

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