HomeBusinessBattery materials manufacturer announces $250 million investment in Madison Co.

Battery materials manufacturer announces $250 million investment in Madison Co.

6K Energy is set to invest a combined $250 million in Madison County, and bring hundreds of jobs to the area by its opening in 2025. The battery material manufacturer made the announcement Tuesday. 

“Tennessee is at the center of the automotive industry, thanks to our unmatched business climate and skilled workforce. I thank 6K Energy for investing more than $200 million in Jackson and creating 230 new jobs to provide greater opportunity for Tennessee families across Madison County,” Governor Bill Lee said after the announcement was made.

6K Energy will initially invest $166 million in the plant for construction and equipment. The company will also use its recently announced $50 million U.S. Department of Energy grant for the factory, placing the initial combined investment over $200 million. Down the road, they expect to invest another $50 million. 

“We’re just extremely excited that a company of this caliber and of this technological advancement, has chosen Madison County to be a part of their next phase. It speaks volumes to the future that they see in Madison County and the workforce that’s available here. And the quality of a license available here,” Madison Co. Mayor AJ Massey said.

The manufacturing plant will be located near McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport in West Madison County, putting it about 30 minutes from BlueOval City. While this company is not connected to Ford Motor Company, it is marketing its product to the electric vehicle makers.

Massey said this is the largest land sale in county history, with the 50 acres of land purchased for $55,000 per acre, totaling to more than $2.5 million.

“That’s the highest ever land price that we’ve ever experienced in the county, so proud of that number as well. And that just shows once again how desirable our community is,” Massey said.

In total, this is the third-largest capital investment in Madison County history. The largest was the new Georgia-Pacific Dixie plant, announced in Sept. 2022, at $425 million. 

What is 6K Energy?

6K Energy is the cathode materials production division of 6K Inc. and produces the materials for batteries, marketed primarily towards electric vehicles. The other portion of the company, 6K Additive, creates materials for 3D printing. 

6K Inc. is based out of North Andover, Mass. Company representatives described themselves as a “large startup,” about 10 years old and with about 200 employees. 

The Jackson plant will be their first battery material manufacturing plant. There, they will use a system called UniMelt, “the world’s only microwave production scale plasma system,” to create the ingredients for the batteries.

6K Energy calls their technology UniMelt, the world’s only microwave production scale plasma system. (Photo courtesy of 6K Energy)

“We use electricity to drive a microwave generator, a little bit like the microwave you’ll have in your kitchen, just on a very large scale,” 6K Energy Chief Operating Officer Rob Davies said, “We use that in combination with a combustible gas to generate a plasma ball, that’s 6000 Kelvin, hence the name 6K. And that’s the temperature of the surface of the sun. “Then we modify the gas stream to be able to extend this into an eight foot long plasma pillar, a little bit like a lightsaber if you’re a Star Wars fan.

“It’s such a hot environment, that when we introduce salts or various metals, it drives that salt back into its elements. So if we put a salt, let’s say lithium, into the plasma, it produces high purity lithium in micron-size particles that almost look spherical. Then it dries out water molecules and some gases, but it’s the high-quality metal particle that we’re seeking to produce.”

6K claims to create more environmentally friendly battery material, compared to processes currently used in China, where 85% of the world’s battery material currently comes from. They say they don’t have any liquid or solid hazardous waste, emit 70% less carbon, and use 50% less energy. On top of that, they can use recycled materials to create the battery materials. 

They say their innovative process also reduces the time to create these materials, from three days to three hours. 

“But when we benchmark our cost of production against the existing process, we are at about half the cost of production. And so our customers are obviously going to like that. And then when we benchmark our costs against the biggest producer today, which is China, we are still significantly better than the cost of production in China. And so having domestic production here in the US, for US customers, bringing those environmental and sustainability benefits. I think there’s a compelling case to take to our customers,” Davies said. 

Ultimately, 6K hopes all of this will equal a better return for electric vehicle companies, as their products cost about $500 less than the other cathode materials used in electric vehicles. 

What does this mean for Jackson and surrounding areas?

Both Greater Jackson Chamber President Kyle Spurgeon and 6K Chief Operating Officer Rob Davies called this investment a mutual partnership. 

“We have been really, over the last two to three years, targeting companies that are high CapEx and investing a lot of money, lower employment count because there are plenty of jobs available, and then higher average wages. We’re very selective. Just like they chose us, we chose them. There are a lot of companies that have looked at Jackson over the last several years, and a lot of them don’t fit that model. They don’t make it through our filter. So what it means is that approach is working, and I think you’ll see it continue to work,” Spurgeon said in the press event.

Davies says 6K Energy initially started the search for their plant site with over 100 different potential locations, eventually narrowing the search to Jackson. 

“It was the quality and the caliber of the people that we met, and hopefully the chemistry will serve as well here in the coming 12 to 24 months. But certainly we proved to really respect the team here in Jackson, the county, as well as the state. And they convinced us that we will encounter great partnerships,” Davies added.

Spurgeon continued to say the entire region will benefit from this company, as many of the workers will come from neighboring counties. 

“We, having benchmarked with some of our neighbors, expect to be hiring in a 60 mile radius. About 180 to 185 employees are going to be shopfloor employees, and so we need to hire from the local community. But we’re also going to need supervisors and managers and we might go further afield, in order to get that caliber of people. But we certainly expect the vast majority of our employees to come from a 50-mile radius of Jackson,” Davies said. 

Davies says the first jobs will be posted Wednesday, including the plant manager, HR manager, engineering manager, and operations manager positions. 

“We’ve made a commitment to hire 40% of our employees from either a disabled background, a veteran background, a diverse background, or from a disadvantaged community,” Davies said “And so, given that commitment, we have to back that up, and build training programs, so that we can make sure that the employees we hire had the aptitude to be trained to either be good quality production operatives, maintenance technicians, or quality technicians. Ideally, you know, smart, energetic, capable high school students or even two year college degrees. But we’re not looking for people with four year degrees to fulfill that commitment.”

6K Energy plans to work with Lane College, Jackson State Community College, and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to train workers. 

“It’ll partner really well with our with our secondary and post-secondary education opportunities in Madison County, to where we have some opportunity to have people come right out of school and then partner with a company like 6K, and then really the sky’s the limit with this technology,” Massey said.

Julia Ewoldt, julia@jacksonpost.news

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