Business News

Alevo steps up hiring at Concord facility

Thursday, April 9, 2015
by Independent Tribune - Staff Reports

CONCORD, N.C. -- Concord energy startup Alevo is about to step up hiring at its battery production facility at the former Philip-Morris plant.

Alevo plans to fill its first 50 manufacturing positions by mid-May, and the company has already filled several positions with the help of NC Works and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

NC Works launched a special site, www.alevoconcord.com, where candidates interested in the manufacturing and production jobs at Alevo can apply directly.

Candidates go through a vetting process, and some are selected for interviews. Company officials say 30 interviews were conducted on Tuesday alone.

Much of the training for the production hires will begin in May as the bulk of the equipment will be getting in place and the team gears up for production of its GridBanks battery technology.

Alevo expects to hire 50-60 more production workers monthly through September, with as many as 500 hires by the end of the year. Currently 70 people are working at the facility.

Alevo’s longer term goal is to fill 6,000 positions in the next five years.

Employees will help manufacture GridBanks, battery systems that use a non-flammable, non-combustible electrolyte in storage cells that can discharge and recharge rapidly. The battery systems look like rail cars and are highly mobile.

Alevo already has international contracts in China and Turkey, and in February the company announced what it calls the largest-ever energy storage deployment in the United States when company officials signed a joint operational agreement with Customized Energy Solutions (CES) to provide 200MW of frequency regulation services to the wholesale energy market.

 

Alevo has May target for hiring first round of production workers, initial line installations

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Published Tuesday, April 7, 2015
by John Downey, The Business Journals

 

Alevo has gotten more than 8,000 applications for jobs at its utility battery plant in Concord and will hire the first 50 workers for the production floor by mid-May.

The company will then hire 50 to 60 additional production workers and maintenance technicians monthly through September. By then, Alevo expects to reach its goal of 300 employees working the first production line for its 1-megawatt GridBank utility-scale batteries. There could be as many as 500 employees by the end of the year.

Tim Daiss, Alevo’s vice president of human resources, and Scott Schotter, its chief marketing officer, detailed the company’s hiring and line construction plan in a recent interview.

Analytics:

Alevo now has 65 people working at its 3.5 million-square-foot plant in the former Philip Morris cigarette factory in Concord.

That includes about 53 executives, supervisors and others working on the production side of the business. There are also seven people already working on what will soon be a 30-person sales and field-services force and five more working at the new Alevo Analytics division.

Analytics is a key division for Alevo’s plans, Schotter says. Alevo will manufacture its GridBank batteries here, and the production division will be its largest. But Alevo does not see itself as a manufacturing company.

It intends to be an energy-services company that will assist utilities in making the most productive and efficient use of the storage services Alevo will offer.

Broader service:

The batteries have obvious applications to coupling storage with renewable-energy sources such as solar and wind that produce power intermittently. But Alevo sees storage in much broader terms, improving the grid’s performance and the efficient transmission of electricity.

It’s the analytics group that will help determine where GridBanks can be most effectively deployed on the grid. In most cases, the company will not sell the batteries, but the storage and efficiency services that they enable.

So Daiss says it is difficult right now to know how large that division will grow in the first year. That will depend on how many energy-services contracts Alevo signs once it starts producing its batteries here in July.

Agreements pending:

Currently, Alevo has a single agreement to provide energy services. That is a joint operational agreement with Customized Energy Solutions of Philadelphia.

Alevo has agreed to produce 200 GridBank battery systems and handle grid-regulation services for CES to market among its 350 energy company customers in the U.S.

Schotter says Alevo has several other contracts and agreements pending. Some, he says, are near closing and may be announced soon.

Hiring in all divisions will start to pick up in late spring, Daiss and Schotter say. That is when the equipment will start arriving for the first manufacturing line for the GridBank battery.

‘Shakedown cruise’:

The batteries, in 40-foot containers similar to truck and rail containers, will be built from the ground up at the site, although some parts will initially be manufactured elsewhere.

The electrolyte that is at the heart of the battery will be shipped from Alevo’s headquarters and principal research facility in Switzerland.

The Concord plant has space for 20 lines eventually, Schotter says. One will be built this year.

“We want to make sure everything is operating correctly before we start installing additional lines,” he says. “Everything around this first line is essentially a shakedown cruise.”

Schedules and spreadsheets:

That, he says, is why nothing is etched in stone beyond the first line going into operation. The second line will not be built until sometime in 2016, depending on how operations go on the first line.

By September, Schotter says, the plant should be producing about one GridBank per day. The CES deal will take up pretty well all of the 2015 production capacity. But Schotter and Daiss say they are confident of having additional orders lined up for 2016.

For now, Chief Operating Officer Tom Walsh has the people on site doing a lot of prep work for the first line installation.

“There’s a lot of scheduling and a lot of people with a lot of spreadsheets,” Schotter says.

Quality applicants:

When the new production workers arrive in mid-May they will be involved in training as the first phases of the production line are built.

Daiss says Alevo has been very pleased with the quality of the applicants it is getting in Concord. Schotter says Alevo is getting key assistance in vetting and training the applicants from the Centralina Workforce Development Program, Cabarrus Community College and other local organizations.

“Early this summer, you’ll see the next round of hiring and installations,” Schotter says. “The boat is moving.”

 

Cabarrus College of Health Sciences Ranked Among Top 10 Colleges and Universities in North Carolina

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
by Business Today - Newsroom

Mar 4. Carolinas HealthCare System’s Cabarrus College of Health Sciences has been ranked one of the top 10 colleges and universities in North Carolina by a national ranking system of more than 2,000 four-year institutions. College Factual ranked Cabarrus College No. 8 out of 51 total colleges and universities in the state.

Located on the campus of Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast, Cabarrus College has 450 full- and part-time students earning associate, bachelor and master’s degrees in programs such as nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy technology, medical assisting, medical imaging and surgical technology. The college offers courses on-campus and through distance education, as well as diplomas, certificates and continuing education.

“We are honored to receive this recognition, an affirmation of our commitment to the success of our students,” said Dianne Snyder, DHA, RN, chancellor of Cabarrus College of Health Sciences. “Our faculty and staff work closely together to ensure our students are well prepared to enter their chosen healthcare professions and provide excellent patient care.”

College Factual rankings are based on four categories: student body caliber, availability of educational resources, degree completion rates and post-graduation earnings. Most of the data come from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

In 2014, Cabarrus College reported 100 percent pass rates among students taking national board certification exams in occupational therapy, medical imaging and medical assisting. In 2014, graduates taking the NC Board of Nursing NCLEX-RN exam achieved a 99 percent first-time pass rate. The college has remained on the President’s Higher Education Community Honor Roll since 2006, the highest federal recognition colleges and universities can receive for community service, service-learning, and civic engagement.

“The academic and professional successes of our students is a top priority at Carolinas HealthCare System,” said Mary N. Hall, MD, FAAFP, chief academic officer for the System. “Our diverse care locations, dedicated resources and evidence-based initiatives allow students to work as part of a team, gaining well-rounded experiences they can use as the foundation for their medical careers.”

Carolinas HealthCare System is also home to the Mercy School of Nursing and Carolinas College of Health Sciences, which in 2012 and 2013 was ranked the No. 1 two-year college in the nation by StateUniversity.com. The System also has partnered with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine to create a regional campus, UNC School of Medicine Charlotte Campus, at Carolinas Medical Center.

About Carolinas HealthCare System

Carolinas HealthCare System (carolinashealthcare.org), one of the nation’s leading and most innovative healthcare organizations, provides a full spectrum of healthcare and wellness programs throughout North and South Carolina. Its diverse network of care locations includes academic medical centers, hospitals, freestanding emergency departments, physician practices, surgical and rehabilitation centers, home health agencies, nursing homes and behavioral health centers, as well as hospice and palliative care services. Carolinas HealthCare System works to enhance the overall health and wellbeing of its communities through high quality patient care, education and research programs, and numerous collaborative partnerships and initiatives.

 

Allegiant adds third Concord-Florida route

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
by Independent Tribune - Staff Reports

Concord, N.C. — Allegiant Air has added new nonstop jet service between Concord and Fort Lauderdale beginning May 8.

Fort Lauderdale becomes Allegiant’s third Florida vacation destination from Concord, adding to existing service to Orlando and the Tampa Bay area.

“The city is very pleased with the success of the Allegiant service and excited to see Allegiant add additional destinations,” said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett.

 “We’re pleased to expand our service in Concord and provide travelers with yet another sunny Florida vacation destination,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant Travel Company senior vice president of planning. “Fort Lauderdale is one of our top vacation destinations, and we believe travelers will appreciate the opportunity to plan their entire vacation through Allegiant.”

The new year-round flights will operate twice weekly and will fly nonstop between Concord Regional Airport (USA) Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). Flight days, times and the lowest fares can be found only at Allegiant.com.

Today only, Allegiant is offering its biggest sale ever, with up to $500 off vacations and promotional one-way fares as low as $34.

The company also announced a one-day-only promotion on vacation packages. Through Thursday, Concord travelers can also visit Allegiant.com/SAVE500 to take advantage of the biggest sale in the company’s history. For vacation packages totaling:

  • $1,500 or more, use promo code SAVE500 to save $500
  • $900 or more, use promo code SAVE300 to save $300
  • $600 or more, use promo code SAVE200 to save $200
 

Alevo signs deployment deal; plant build-out, hiring on schedule

Thursday, February 19, 2015

by Independent Tribune Staff

CONCORD, N.C. -- Concord-based Alevo Group has announced what it calls the largest-ever energy storage deployment in the United States.

Alevo officials say they have signed a joint operational agreement with Customized Energy Solutions (CES) to provide 200MW of frequency regulation services to the wholesale energy market.

CES will use Alevo’s GridBanks energy storage systems to reach more than 350 energy customers under eight Independent Systems Operators (ISOs) in the U.S. and Canada.

A number of regions – including the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, much of the Midwest, Texas, California and portions of Canada – organize their markets under ISOs. Most states in these regions also allow for retail competition.

GridBanks not only stores unused energy, Alevo officials say. They also regulate the frequency of electrical signals, increase the efficiency of power plants, and make renewable like wind and solar more viable since they can release stored energy when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

“This is a critical juncture in the integration of battery storage into the market, transitioning from pilot projects to grid-scale commercially viable installations,” CES representative Judith Judson said in a statement. “Storage can provide huge value across the electric grid in terms of increased efficiency and reduced costs, but the challenge has been monetizing the benefits. Alevo is a forward-thinking company with an exciting new battery chemistry and aggressive growth goals.”

“The major expansion of projects deployed in ISO markets continues to prove the benefits and commercial applications for readiness of energy storage,” Alevo CEO Jostein Eikeland said in a statement. “Our operational agreement with Customized Energy Solutions is a milestone for Alevo and testament to the proven performance attributes of our battery technology, which offers a superior value proposition for grid applications. The longevity and performance characteristics of the technology allow us to deploy projects in multiple ISO markets that earlier technologies have not been able to profitably address.”

Alevo, founded in 2009 in Switzerland, took over the former Phillip Morris plant in Concord last summer and unveiled its technology at an October 2014 event.

Since then, the company has hired about 50 people and is building out its manufacturing management team, said Meredith Holt of Walker Marketing, which does business with Alevo. The company expects to hire 500 people by year’s end, and major equipment is set to arrive over the next month or so.

The first GridBanks are scheduled to come off the assembly line in July.

 

Lofty goals for Concord Regional Airport

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
by Tim Reaves of The Independent Tribune

 

CONCORD, N.C. -- As the Charlotte region continues to grow, air travelers are looking for more options, and the Concord Regional Airport is positioning itself to provide them.

The airport conducted 61,277 operations in 2013. It’s already the largest regional airport in the state.

“Our airport alone has a $171 million economic impact to the region,” said airport director Rick Cloutier. It supports more than 1,900 jobs and provides runway access and hangar for private jets and charter planes, commercial flights for leisure travel, flight schools, support services, supplies and “everything in between.”

And it serves as the “reliever airport” for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.

“If you look at our location, our number of operations … we already surpass all the other regional airports in the area,” Cloutier said. “And our location assists us in growth also due to our proximity to 85, due to the recent population growth and the northern section of Charlotte. It allows us to service the community.”

MORE CONVENIENT

Concord Regional’s rapid growth follows a nationwide trend. Air traffic -- especially corporate private jet traffic -- continues to expand, and major airports are becoming less convenient destinations for executives who want flexibility and short runway wait times, said Robert P. Mark, CEO of CommAvia, a communications, marketing and publication business serving airports and aviation businesses.

At Charlotte-Douglas, people are always thinking about how long the waits are, he said. “It would be so much worse if you didn’t have a reliever for private air traffic. They’re there to take off some of the load.”

Private jets and charter planes also have different security protocols than general commercial traffic, Cloutier added.

“You need to make sure you’re always separating those to meet the needs of both,” he said.

In anticipation of its coming needs, city officials are planning several projects for the future and have requested funding through the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

They used $4.37 million in federal dollars to begin construction of a 250,000-square-yard expansion to the south section of airport’s ramp, where planes park and wait to taxi for flights. More funding would provide perimeter security fencing, land acquisition on Ivey Cline Road, a new, relocated control tower and a $40 million terminal for commercial flights.

COURTING OTHER AIRLINES

That terminal will service customers of low-cost carrier Allegiant Airlines, which started service at Concord in December 2013 and is adding destinations.

Cloutier said Concord Regional is in talks with two other commercial airlines, but the names have not been released.

Allegiant handled around 40,000 passengers in Concord in 2014, Cloutier said, and flights are packed.

Allegiant primarily operates out of regional airports, “because these locations are typically underserved markets that are traditionally overlooked by larger carriers,” Allegiant public relations specialist Laura Billiter said in an email. “These regional airports also generally have lower costs for us to operate out of that location, helping us keep the cost of our fares low.”

Their customer base is leisure travel, “and leisure travelers are very price sensitive,” she said. “Our passengers consistently show they value low fares over any other amenity, so every decision we make is driven to keep our fares low.”

Billiter said Allegiant doesn’t currently have plans to expand at Concord, but “we’re always looking at new opportunities.”

ROOM TO GROW

Space and environmental concerns usually hold airports back, but Cloutier said Concord Regional has plenty of room to grow.

About 350 acres on the eastern side of the airport fall under FAA encumbrances and can’t be used for anything apart from airport expansion.

The city has discussed building a new terminal with gates and security on the Ivey Cline Road on that side of the airport. And the state DOT has announced an initiative to widen Derita Road beside the airport’s main entrance to four lanes.

The expanded airport will be “much closer than Charlotte” for Cabarrus and Iredell residents, Cloutier said. “It’s great, especially for leisure destinations.”

In the future, the airport could resemble some of Allegiant’s larger destinations, like St. Petersburg–Clearwater International Airport, which conducted 141,295 operations in 2013.

That airport fills the leisure travel market niche, said director Noah Lagos.

“We provide an opportunity for leisure travelers to come to the beautiful beaches of … and access the hotels and downtown Tampa,” he said.

There’s no need to compete head-to-head with the larger Tampa International Airport, because Allegiant specializes in low-cost leisure travel and vacation packages.

St. Petersburg has managed its costs without going into debt, Lagos said. The airport has a “good sized terminal” that was renovated in 2010.

As a result of its features and location, St. Petersburg connects to 41 cities through Allegiant and also has service with three other commercial airliners.

KEEP IT CHEAP

Though the variables are different, airport officials hope the combination of a strengthening economy, higher demand, and improvements at and around Concord Regional will allow Allegiant and other carriers add more flights.

“I think we’d like an airport that’s been following the growth patterns enough to be servicing the community and the region … to be serving the public,” he said, providing “enough choice, an alternative for transportation” for commercial fliers and maintaining the needs for private and chartered flights.

The key will be to keep it cheap, as that’s one of Concord’s main business pitches.

“We controlled how we constructed things, how we managed things to keep costs low for the airlines,” Cloutier said. “We didn’t building extravagant buildings that cost a lot of money, which those costs are borne by the airlines, which ultimately is passed on to the consumer. If you work to provide a good service and keep the costs low for the airlines, then those savings are passed on to the consumer, which is ultimately the flying public.”

Cloutier added he will present information on new airport improvement projects at the Concord City Council’s annual planning session starting on Tuesday.

 

Speedway recognized for STEM program

Friday, January 23, 2015
by Business Today

Jan. 22. Charlotte Motor Speedway was recognized by the North Carolina Motorsports Association for contributions to the community through its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math-based educational field trip program. Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, accepted the award, presented by NASCAR icon  Ray Evernham.

“Through the STEM program, Charlotte Motor Speedway is helping to inspire tomorrow’s scientists, engineers and mathematicians by being a mentor and role model that serves as a connecting piece that shows them how this relates to careers in our community where we work and live,” Evernham said.

The STEM program at the speedway offers students a hands-on experience that educates, entertains and gives students the experience needed to learn about science, technology, engineering and math in the world of motorsports.

Participants cycle through five stations of activities that relate to real world, problem-based learning, which stimulates students interest and helps them better retain data with exercises that involve a Track Tour, Traction/Friction, Acceleration, Balance and Pit Stop Challenge.

As part of its commitment serving the community, Charlotte Motor Speedway has expanded its STEM program steadily each years from 13 events (reaching 579 students) in 2011-12 to 61 field trips (reaching 4,535 students) last year.

“We are honored and humbled to be recognized by the NCMA for something we strive to do every day – serve the community,” Smith said. “Watching the children who take part in our STEM program learn and grow is always an exciting time, and we can’t wait to see some of these youth go on to excel as scientists and engineers, and perhaps even find their way back to NASCAR for a career in the industry.”

 

City of Concord Achieves Class 2 ISO Rating

Thursday, March 14, 2013

by: Peter Franzese, City of Concord

CONCORD – Many Concord business owners will have lower fire insurance costs following a recent evaluation by the N.C. Department of Insurance Office of State Fire Marshal and the Insurance Services Office (ISO). Many retail, commercial, and industrial businesses should see fire insurance rates fall by an average of five to eight percent.

Fire insurance rates are based on ISO’s Public Protection Classification Program. ISO's expert staff collects information about municipal fire protection efforts in communities throughout the United States. In each of those communities, ISO analyzes the relevant data and assigns a Public Protection Classification (PPCTM) — a number from 1 to 10, with Class 1 generally representing superior property fire protection. The City of Concord’s ISO rating has improved to Class 2, effective June 1, 2013.

The Class 2 rating places Concord’s Department of Fire and Life Safety in the top one percent in the nation. There are 48,960 rated fire districts in the United States. Concord’s PPC has been lowered three times in the past seventeen years. The classification previously dropped from 5 to 4 in June 1996, and to Class 3 in November 2004.

“I’d like to congratulate Chief Holloway for his department’s performance and for the hard work of all the department members,” said Wayne Goodwin, Commissioner of Insurance. “The citizens in Concord should rest easy knowing they have a fine group of firefighters protecting them and their property in case of emergency.”

The classification program evaluates three major components: the fire department (fifty percent of the score), water supply (forty percent), and alarms and communications (ten percent). Cities are rated on the number of engine and ladder companies, fire personnel, and equipment. Evaluation of the water system includes the amount of fire hydrants and the pressure and flow of water, which would be needed in the case of a fire. The amount of time it would take fire personnel to arrive at a location is also a large factor.

Since the classification received in 2004, the City has improved fire protection by adding Fire Station 9, located at Ivey Cline Drive and Poplar Tent Road, and temporary Fire Station 10, located near the intersection of Poplar Tent Road and Harris Road. Concord Fire and Life Safety has also made significant improvements in fire company distribution, technology, and efficiency over the past eight years. The Department has added two additional ladder companies and a rescue company since 2004. The City has also continued to make improvements in its water and emergency communications systems, and those departments scored very well, helping Concord achieve the Class 2 PPC.

“The City Council made this possible through their support and investment in infrastructure and people,” said Concord Mayor Scott Padgett. “Whether investing in fire stations and apparatus, improve water capacity, or better communications, the Council’s leadership and vision was a key element in providing this peace of mind to our community.”

Each PPC classification improvement results in an average of five to eight percent reduction in commercial and industrial fire insurance rates. Over the past seventeen years, commercial and industrial insurance rates have decreased an average of fifteen to twenty-four percent. Generally, there are no additional savings for residential properties after a community achieves Class 6.

“I am very proud of our department and the City,” said Fire Chief Randy Holloway. “This rating reflects our core value of continuous improvement and our business friendly, customer-focused environment.”

Learn more about Concord Fire and Life Safety at concordnc.gov.