By Wendy Solomon | LVB

Two years after it broke ground for construction, East Penn Manufacturing opened a new $150 million plant at its sprawling facility in Lyons that could add up to 400 jobs when fully operational, company officials said.

East Penn, one of the world’s largest battery makers, is Berks County’s largest employer with about 8,000.

The new 590,000-square-foot plant will make industrial batteries for three of the company’s main divisions, officials said. The batteries will be used in industries that include automotive vehicles, rail and renewable energy.

The plant’s equipment will start running in August.

The $150 million price tag includes the cost of construction, equipment and employee training and retention, the company said.

East Penn received funding from the state Department of Community & Economic Development, including a $500,000 Pennsylvania Fire Program grant, $800,000 in job creation tax credits, $180,000 in guaranteed free training and $5 million in a 10-year low-interest loan at 1.5 percent from the Machinery and Equipment Fund.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority provided a $6 million, 15-year low-interest loan at 1.5 percent to the Greater Berks Development Fund on behalf of East Penn.

East Penn has been expanding in recent years to meet increased demand. The company bought 40 acres from Kutztown Publishing Co. in Maxatawny Township for $3.9 million this year. It plans to relocate research and development on lithium-ion batteries and related operations from its Lyons headquarters to that location.

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