Business & Economy

Beta Technologies set to open battery testing site in St. Albans

Beta Technologies' ALIA-250 can take off and land vertically and transition to long-range flight. Courtesy photo

Beta Technologies has signed a lease in St. Albans Town where it will open a new facility to test the safety and reliability of batteries for its electric aircraft, the company said. 

The facility is set to be located in a portion of the former Energizer plant on Route 7 and will create “hundreds” of jobs, according to a press release Wednesday. Beta said it will need greater capacity for battery testing as it aims for federal certification of its planes.

“We are excited to establish our new battery facility in Franklin County and create more opportunities for the strong, skilled workforce here,” Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark said. 

Beta’s chief operating officer, Blain Newton, told state lawmakers in February that the company was eyeing the former plant in St. Albans Town, as well as Plattsburgh International Airport across Lake Champlain, as potential locations for a new battery facility. 

In Wednesday’s release, Clark said the company chose St. Albans for its proximity to Burlington International Airport — where Beta is building a large manufacturing and assembly facility — and because of its preference for repurposing an existing structure.

Beta signed its lease for the space earlier this month, according to Elisabeth Nance, economic development coordinator at the St. Albans-based Franklin County Industrial Development Corp. Renovations are set to begin in October.

The company will lease 20,000 square feet of the former plant initially but plans to expand to use 155,000 square feet over time, Beta spokesperson Jake Goldman said in an email.

Nance called the deal “exciting,” though she noted that it will take a concerted effort on the part of Beta and state and local officials to recruit new employees. Finding housing in northwestern Vermont for those workers could be even more difficult, she said. 

“Those are all known challenges. We obviously have a workforce shortage in Vermont,” Nance said. “But Beta does a great job of bringing young folks to the state.”

Nance pointed to a partnership between Beta and a planned avionics apprenticeship program at the Franklin County State Airport as a potential source of employees.

The former Energizer plant ceased manufacturing in 2013. An apparel and advertising company called Main Street Graphics currently uses part of the building, along with Peerless Clothing, which makes suits.

Nance said Peerless Clothing has seen a drop in demand during the pandemic and no longer needs as much space in the plant, which opened up more space for Beta. 

Gov. Phil Scott and Sen. Corey Parent, R-Franklin, hailed the electric aircraft manufacturer’s decision in the Wednesday press release.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm for BETA’s technology,” Parent said, “and it means a lot to see an innovative company like this choose Franklin County to grow its business.”

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Shaun Robinson

About Shaun

Shaun Robinson is a Report for America corps member with a special focus on issues of importance to Franklin and Grand Isle counties. He is a journalism graduate of Boston University, with a minor in political science. His work has appeared in the Boston Globe, the Patriot Ledger of Quincy and the Cape Cod Times.

Email: srobinson@vtdigger.org

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