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Originally published March 26, 2010 at 1:45 PM | Page modified March 26, 2010 at 11:01 PM

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Moses Lake wins BMW carbon-fiber factory, says governor's office

BMW and another German company have chosen Moses Lake as the site for a new plant to manufacture carbon fibers to use in building lightweight cars.

Seattle Times business reporter

BMW and another German company have chosen Moses Lake as the site for a new plant to manufacture carbon fibers to use in building lightweight cars.

Gov. Chris Gregoire is scheduled to speak at a news conference April 6 in Seattle that also will feature top executives of BMW and SGL Group, which last fall established a joint venture to produce carbon fibers and fabric for the auto industry.

The news-conference notice did not reveal the subject, and an SGL spokeswoman did not return calls Friday.

But Gregoire spokeswoman Karina Shagren said the governor has courted the companies personally and, "We anticipate a positive announcement."

The joint venture also has been considering a site in Canada for the fiber plant.

Gregoire met with company officials in November, and again in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, Shagren said. Members of the governor's staff and state Commerce Department officials have been in "constant contact" with SGL and BMW, she added.

Moses Lake City Manager Joe Gavinski said he did not know if the companies had chosen his city. "They haven't told us anything," he said.

Moses Lake has several advantages, Gavinski said, including low-cost electricity, an abundance of available land, a big airport and proximity to Interstate 90.

The number of workers the plant will employ wasn't immediately known. But any new jobs would be welcome in Grant County, where the unemployment rate was 13.6 percent in February, according to the state Department of Employment Security.

When they announced their joint venture last October, SGL, which makes carbon-based products, and BMW said a new factory in North America would make fibers that would be woven into fabrics at a new factory in Germany.

They said the construction of the plants would start in 2010, and the two factories would employ a total of 180 workers. They also said the North American plant would use hydropower, a commodity Moses Lake and Grant County enjoy in abundance thanks to Columbia River dams.

BMW's chairman said the automaker planned to use the carbon fabrics in its Megacity hybrid car, expected to reach the market in the next few years.

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Panels made from carbon-fiber composites are built up from layers of such fabric and then are baked to hardness. Composites are used to make the fuselage and wings of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

State and local governments have offered the plant — code-named "Project Chinook" — incentives to locate in Moses Lake. In January the state Community Economic Revitalization Board approved a $1.5 million loan and a $500,000 grant to the Port of Moses Lake to help build a substation to provide power to the factory.

The money was contingent on the plant being built, said Matt Ojennus, the board's interim program manager.

The state also is considering subsidizing worker training, said Susan St. Germain, senior business-development manager for the state Department of Commerce.

Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or epryne@seattletimes.com

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