This week's major news on the federal stimulus front is $2.4 billion worth of grants for new technology related to electric cars, hybrids, and the batteries to run them. Some of the money will go to companies in Quincy, MA; Barre, VT; and Waterbury, CT.
But the big local winner was A123 Systems of Watertown, the MIT spin-out -- and IPO contender -- that received $249 million in stimulus funds. It will use the money to build factories in Michigan to make lithium-ion car batteries.
Boston-Power, a Westborough company that also makes next-gen lithium-ion batteries, was hoping for a $100 million chunk of change to build a factory in Massachusetts, but came up empty.
One Innovation Economy reader pointed me to some interesting data about the two battery companies' lobbying activity.
Here's a chart showing A123's lobbying spending over the past three years, courtesy of OpenSecrets.org. Across this timeframe, the company lobbied the Dept. of Transportation, Dept. of Energy, and members of the House and Senate.
And here's a chart showing Boston-Power's lobbying spend over 2008 and 2009 so far, also from OpenSecrets.org. According to the site, Boston-Power lobbied members of the House and Senate, along with the Department of Defense (more on that later.)
Now, I don't think this spending disparity necessarily explains why A123 got a grant and Boston-Power didn't. A123 has been working on car batteries longer than Boston-Power, and they already have deals in place with various automakers. Boston-Power's main focus thus far has been making laptop batteries. And perhaps the DC sugar daddies also liked the idea of funding a factory in Michigan, rather than the one in Massachusetts.
But I'm interested in your take... so post a comment below.
Here's President Obama announcing the grants yesterday:
Boston-Power apparently still could win future federal funding. It is in the running for a $100 million grant from the Department of Defense, to be announced later this year.
(Some bonus material: here's a column I wrote in May about local cleantech companies hiring lobbyists.)
about the blogger
About Scott Kirsner Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.
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