The following article was published by Jeff Stein at the Washington Post on August 13, 2022.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Other opportunities are developing across the state. At a White House event last December, Sanjiv Malhotra, the chief executive of battery manufacturer Sparkz, began talking with Phil Smith, the Washington-based lobbyist for the United Mine Workers of America. Malhotra, an immigrant whose father worked at a coal mine in India, and Smith began talking about Sparkz’s interest in a new production plant to supply batteries made from more sustainable elements for agriculture and other heavy industry, with the company pitching itself as able to free America from dependence on Chinese parts.
The company started researching West Virginia, and Malhotra found a lot of what he was looking for, including a workforce still highly equipped for manufacturing, abundant water and other natural resources, and strong logistics capacities. Citing the potential of the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits, Sparkz is now suggesting it could hire as many as 3,000 workers there. Elswick, the former “surface blaster” at the Hobet coal mine whose father and grandfather also worked at the same mine, could be one of them. That would not offset the 40,000 coal mining jobs West Virginia has lost since 2012, but it would be a start.
“These are very proud folks who for generations were working in coal-mining and bringing energy to the United States,” Malhotra said. “Their work can be so crucial. … Bringing such folks back to a well-paying job where we can put food on the table — it’s patriotic power.”