Today I want to talk about what I think is a tremendously overlooked part of the stimulus program that fuels our state’s economy – direct grants to private companies.
Most of the work in the stimulus program is being carried out by private companies. I’ve met private business owners on many of my infrastructure and energy visits – it is these contractors that are doing the weatherization work, the road work and the energy projects. But recently I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of private businesses that have received stimulus awards directly to further their research, take innovative steps and grow their businesses right here in Massachusetts.
These are businesses like Premium Power Corp., a company that develops low cost batteries that have the capacity to store and retrieve energy. These batteries are a bit different. They are not your typical AA or AAA batteries that you pop into a flashlight. These are the size of tractor trailers. The company, based in North Reading, got a $6 million Smart Grid Energy Storage grant through stimulus to demonstrate that their batteries can help utilities manage their solar energy by storing the extra solar energy that is generated during the day– when not a lot people are home to use the energy — and releasing it later in the day when more people need it. Bill O’Donnell who manages the Smart Grid program for the company told me that this stimulus grant is “critical” for Premium Power to grow. And that means more jobs created – O’Donnell estimated that 86 jobs are being directly and indirectly created just through the grant – and greater cost savings and more green energy for utilities.
Then there is Flight Landata , a company in North Andover that develops aerial remote sensors for the US Army. Flight Landata received a Small Business Innovation Research grant through stimulus of nearly $600K to enable the company to adapt an infrared sensor on a NASA satellite for aerial collection. The implications of this grant are huge most especially for the soldiers in Afghanistan who will use the sensor’s thermal imaging to more effectively identify Improvised Explosive Devices and save lives. But of course the grant has implications for this company, which will grow and for the additional employees it will need to hire to accommodate that growth.
This story is being replicated again and again across the state. I visited another company in Fall River, MicroMagnetics, which develops commercial applications of spintronics, a relatively new technology which combines the fields of magnetism, electronics and nanotechnology. The company is in the process of developing highly precise magnetic sensors which has applications in several markets including semiconductor manufacturers, cell phone manufacturers, precision devices and equipments, university, government and industrial labs and oil drilling companies. MicroMagnetics received three stimulus awards: A $500K award from the National Science Foundation; a $300K award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology; and an award of approximately $1 million from the Department of Energy. Dr. Gang Xian, who founded the company, told me the government’s support has been vital to his company’s growth. Xian is clearly committed to Fall River – he outsources and hires locally and just expanded here.
It is companies like MicroMagnetics — and all the others I visited — that will have possibly the most long term impact on the local economy and it is stimulus that is giving them the power to continue to grow and thrive.
Tags: batteries, clean energy, economy, energy, fall river, flight landata, grants, job creation, ma recovery, mass gov, massachusetts, micromagnetic, north andover, premium power corp, recovery, road work, stimulus, stimulus program, technology, weatherization