Employer highlighted by president laying off workers

by: Jason Stoogenke Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

A major employer President Barack Obama highlighted as a success story is now laying off workers.

Obama visited Celgard in 2010. The U.S. Department of Energy had awarded the company a $49 million grant in 2009 to create 300 jobs and build electric-vehicle batteries. Both Democrats and Republicans lobbied Energy for the grant for Celgard.

Celgard says it did add the jobs it promised, but now has to cut 40 others between its Charlotte and Concord plants. It emailed WSOC that the market for those batteries has been tougher than expected.

It wrote, "Demand for EDVs (electric vehicles) has not increased as quickly as our customers and their customers originally projected, and therefore we are aligning our global resources with the near-term expected level of sales."

Wake Forest business professor Dan Fogel isn't surprised.

"When you play in a new space like this -- renewable energy, new types of cars -- you got to expect an enormous volatility," he said.

WSOC reached out to the Department of Energy to see if the layoffs jeopardize any part of that grant. It said no, the grant was tied to certain expansions. Celgard did the work and wrapped up just a few weeks ago. Energy said these layoffs are unrelated.

In the meantime, the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce had no comment Friday.

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon texted WSOC, "In the midst of this unfortunate news, the economy overall still continues to grow jobs in the marketplace and doesn't slow down actions to create more jobs in the Charlotte-metro region."