Sylmar-based lithium ion battery-maker Quallion — reversing a trend — announced that it will produce its products in the United States rather than overseas in a new Santa Clarita manufacturing facility that could employ as many as 30 people.
The company said the materials made in Santa Clarita will support at least another 20 jobs at Quallion’s Sylmar factory.
Quallion is one of a few U.S. companies to make lithium ion batteries. Its batteries energize medical devices such as pacemakers and power various systems in military jets. The company has grown from 60 employees in 2006 to about 200 in 2013.
Quallion previously bought the powders and metals that go into those batteries from foreign companies, mostly in Southeast Asia. But the company said the raw materials will now come from the Santa Clarita facility. Quallion Vice President Vincent Visco said the new production line in Santa Clarita will change that.
"It enables us to create materials off of that line, send it down to our Sylmar facility as we incorporate those materials into new cell designs," said Vincent Visco, Quallion Vice President. "That’s where a lot of our key job growth is gonna be.
Producing its own battery materials will cost Quallion more than buying them from overseas, but the company said it will give it direct control over their quality and availability. Quallion has invested $10 million in the Santa Clarita facility.
The city of Santa Clarita believes the new facility fits nicely with the area's existing biomedical and aerospace-defense industries.
"Being able to have them here as a partner and a supplier to those businesses is just great for our economy," said Jason Crawford with the Santa Clarita Economic Development Division.
Before the recession, Crawford said Santa Clarita's unemployment rate historically hovered around 3 percent. Now the rate stands at 6.2 percent.
Crawford said businesses have begun to invest in facilities in Santa Clarita in recent years, citing Aerospace Dynamics International's 2012 groundbreaking for a new 88,000-square-foot facility. He pointed to Quallion's new plant as another sign the city's economy is getting better.