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Mar. 10—When Green Cubes Technology started building large-scale lithium-ion batteries in 2018, the company employed less than 20 workers in Kokomo.
Fast forward to today, and the business has around 100 local employees.
And soon, Green Cubes could add dozens — maybe hundreds — of new jobs in Kokomo following a major expansion that includes moving into a larger building and adding production lines in Europe.
President and CEO Keith Washington said they began leasing and remodeling a 36,000-square-foot facility owned by General Motors that now serves as the company's sole production site in the U.S. The building, located at 2121 W. Boulevard, had sat vacant for years.
After a multi-million remodel of the facility, the plant has become fully operational building lithium-ion batteries. Those batteries can sometimes weigh up to 5,000 pounds, and power material-handling equipment such as forklifts trucks, personnel carriers, pallet jacks, automated vehicles and mobile medical work stations.
The new production site also includes space for engineering, support, accounting, finance, sales, marketing and warehousing for those products.
Since 2018, the company had been building the batteries from inside its corporate headquarters at 4124 Cartwright Drive in Kokomo. But with a pandemic-fueled surge in e-commerce and food and beverage services, warehouses started needing a lot more equipment.
Washington said that led to a major uptick in demand for their batteries, especially as many companies look to replace lead acid batteries and combustible-engine power with green energy supplied by lithium batteries.
"It's really growing substantially, so that justified moving into a new 36,000-square-foot facility," he said. "We started with somewhat humble beginnings, and now we're on a very rapid growth trajectory taking advantage of the clean, green energy wave."
And that wave is projected to become a tsunami.
Washington said many of the places to which they supply batteries are multi-national companies that want clean energy powering other parts of their business, such as online data centers. That market has also grown during the pandemic as more people are working from home.
He said Green Cubes is now pivoting to produce those batteries as well, and not just in Kokomo.
Part of the company's expansion includes building a new production site in Slovakia to build batteries and power conversion products for the European market. A new technology center in Zurich, Switzerland, is also up and running developing products for network power systems and data centers.
Washington said the European sites may be far from Kokomo, but the local facility will play an important role in the overseas market. One option may be making components in the city, and then shipping them to Europe to be assembled.
"The two will support each other," he said. "As the business in Europe grows, that's good news for Kokomo because it leverages our base production capabilities. As we grow domestically from our Kokomo operations, it opens new doors for our geographic expansion in Europe."
The company hopes the new technology they develop in Europe will eventually transition into the U.S. market, which usually takes longer to implement new, green technology compared to European countries.
Green Cubes also operates sites in India, Malaysia and Taiwan.
In Kokomo, the former manufacturing facility on Cartwright Drive has now been converted into a space for engineering and design work. The company had originally planned to build a new 20,000-square-foot facility on Pipeline Way, but decided the GM building better served its purpose.
But, Washington said, there was never a question of expanding outside Kokomo. He said the city provides an ideal Midwest location for its products.
"The Midwest is like the Silicon Valley of material handling, especially Chicago," he said. "We've found being in Kokomo has been a big advantage for our basis of operation."
The wealth of engineering and manufacturing talent in the city was also a major reason Green Cubes wanted to expand here, Washington said, and its a major reason the company has grown so rapidly.
"The ability to hire the kind of talent that was in Kokomo really helped us accelerate the growth of our business," he said.
And that growth isn't done. Washington said he projects the company will add dozens, if not hundreds of new jobs, in the next 3 to 5 years. The new facility will provide plenty of space for that expansion.
"We're excited to see the growth and have the opportunity to be in Kokomo," he said. "It's really been a great run for us, and we think it's going to continue."
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carsongerber1.