Though Zinc Air’s first out-of-facility installations of its power-storage batteries are a few months away, the company has been expanding so fast it is housing some of its engineers in a trailer behind its Columbia Falls-area building.
The company currently has 45 employees after hiring half a dozen — many from Montana State University — in the last month.
“A lot of these folks are MSU graduates who have had to leave the state for employment and are now finding jobs back here in Montana,” said Kevin Waldher, vice president of business development.
“They really pump out some high-quality graduates between MSU and Montana Tech, and there’s such a work ethic with people from Montana. It’s nice to bring people back, and they’re hard workers.”
The vice president of manufacturing, John Lowell, is an example of someone excited about the opportunity to work in Montana. He left a $7 billion-a-year company in Toronto to join Zinc Air.
The company is developing cutting-edge, patented battery solutions for storing and generating power. Zinc Air products will help solar, wind and traditional power companies by allowing energy to be distributed when it’s needed, not just when it’s produced.
The company is finalizing its Z20 storage unit and received its second patent last week, “which will greatly improve our energy capacity and cost reduction of our systems,” Waldher said.
In the company’s most recent investor newsletter, a message from Zinc Air president Dave Wilkins summarizes the optimistic outlook at the company:
“Zinc Air has methodically and diligently endeavored into the grid storage market. We have assembled the best business, sales, marketing, engineering, electrical and chemical experts from varied industries, including semiconductor, battery and fuel cell, software and electronics and manufacturing.”
The company is looking to begin local installations, its first deployments outside of its own facility, in April 2013. Larger deployments are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2013, Waldher said.
Another recent Zinc Air development is the addition of former CIA director James Woolsey, who has joined the company as chairman of Zinc Air’s senior advisory board.
“Bringing the caliber of someone like Jim Woolsey onto the team takes our industry exposure to another level,” Wilkins wrote in the newsletter. “Jim has been a leader in the renewable industry and provides tremendous insight to the military applications for our technology.”
Zinc Air held a by-invitation open house and plant tour on Thursday.
Reporter Heidi Gaiser may be reached at 758-4439 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.