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California Corporate Moves

Moving Toward a Better Place

Palo Alto-based startup company, Better Place, aims to bring an electric-car infrastructure system to the Bay Area. Its business model will provide the public with stations to charge vehicles and swap out leased batteries.

California hopes to reinvigorate the state and region’s competitive advantage in innovative technology through public-private investments in electric vehicles and other elements of green frameworks. The state’s move toward a sustainable mobility model of electric vehicles fueled by renewable energy will ideally function as an economic and environmental stimulus blueprint for the entire country.

The Bay Area will serve as the first region of California to make the switch from carbon-based transportation to sustainable mobility. According to early results of a study by Venture Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, widespread usage of electric vehicles over the course of two decades would save consumers $175 billion in fuel costs and bring a $120-billion boom for battery makers.

“California is already a world leader in fighting global warming and promoting renewable energy,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “This type of public-private partnership is exactly what I envisioned when we created the first ever low carbon fuel standard and when the state enacted the zero emissions vehicle program. This partnership is proof that by working together, we can achieve our goals of creating a healthier planet while boosting our economy at the same time.”

Once the system is fully deployed, this move from greenhouse gas-emitting cars that run on fossil fuel, to clean, electric cars fueled by renewable energy, will be an estimated $1-billion network investment in the Bay Area. The Better Place model is an open network model built on industry standards, allowing for fixed battery and battery exchange electric vehicles to operate on the network.

Better Place’s founder and CEO, Shai Agassi, hopes to wrap up permitting in the Bay Area by the end of 2009, roll out the infrastructure in 2010 and fine-tune its technology during the next several years as more electric cars come to market. “We hope that by the time we deploy, we’ll see Renault, Nissan [and] the three U.S. manufacturers developing cars that have a plug, and have the ability to drive around the city and charge as they go.” California is estimated to generate upwards of $2.5 billion in jobs building this new infrastructure, with billions more in car and battery sales to consumers.

“The green technology industry is going to boom, and it is our job to ensure it booms here, in the Bay Area and California,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We have the venture capital, we have the research universities and we have management talent.”

“Green” Shopping Comes to San Fernando Valley

City officials, representatives from the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) and real estate developer, Primestor Development Inc., broke ground on Plaza Pacoima, a $78-million project that economists hope will revitalize the San Fernando Valley community. Located on the former Price Pfister, a plumbing fixtures manufacturing site that closed in 1997, Pacoima’s new “green” shopping center will incorporate many aspects of sustainable design and construction.

In addition to restaurant and office space, the 209,000-square-foot project will feature a Costco store and gas station, a Best Buy and a nearby Lowe’s. Slated to open next year, Plaza Pacoima is expected to create 438 construction jobs and 354 permanent positions. In compliance with CRA/LA’s first source and local hire programs, 30% of the jobs will be reserved for residents who live within three miles of the shopping center plaza.

Plaza Pacoima will seek a Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rating and include energy efficient lighting and HVAC, low water consumption plumbing fixtures, the use of recycled and locally produced building materials, and day lighting systems. The 17.5-acre site will be designed in a contemporary architectural style and the 898-space parking lot will be landscaped as a grove with more than 500 trees and shaded pedestrian routes. Other sustainable features include on-site storm water detention and lush perimeter landscaping. It will be among the first projects permitted under the new City of Los Angeles Green Building Program.

One of the lowest-income areas in Los Angeles with one of the highest unemployment rates, the Plaza Pacoima project energized the Pacoima community with an advisory coalition of more than 24 organizations that met weekly for most of 2007.

“We are breaking ground on more than just a new Costco. We are bringing new jobs, economic investment, and green development to the heart of the San Fernando Valley,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Officials anticipate Plaza Pacoima will bring $153 million in tax revenue over the next 30 years and hope the center will encourage other national retailers to move to Pacoima.

Zero Emissions, Hundreds of Jobs at Balqon plant

Balqon Corporation, a developer and manufacturer of heavy-duty electric vehicles and electric propulsion systems, opened a new production facility in Harbor City, CA. The event celebrated a significant step towards cleaner air and more “green-collar” jobs in the local community.

“Today we start to see the payoff of our investment in cultivating new environmental technology,” said Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa. “The trucks that roll off the Balqon assembly line in the months and years ahead will help green our ports and clean our air, while also creating green-collar jobs and pumping millions of dollars into our regional economy.”

Designed specifically for short-haul operations, one vehicle produced will be the Nautilus E-20, a zero-emission electric tractor that can carry loads up to 60,000 lbs. at 25mph, with 40-mile range on a single charge. Saving over 70% in fuel and 60% in maintenance costs, these trucks will serve as a zero-emissions alternative to fossil fuel-powered yard tractors.

Balwinder Samra, CEO of Balqon Corporation, said the new facility is the result of a public-private partnership and stated, “The support and collaboration we received from the port and city of Los Angeles enabled us to develop, test and move into production in less than two years’ time.” Balqon will pay royalties to both AQMD and Port of Los Angeles, with over $1 million in royalty payments expected in the first three years. According to Samra, “the company has received increased interest in its products in global markets and expects that this year over 40% of the revenues will be generated by international customers, while creating hundreds of jobs in the local community.”

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