In this tiny town near Pittsburgh, an abandoned factory is now home to a modern battery plant

When a huge Westinghouse factory shut down in a small town near Pittsburgh in the 1980s, the community was hit hard. Steel plants around the region also closed.

“We became part of the Rust Belt,” says Adam Forgie, mayor of the town, Turtle Creek. “For as long as I can remember—and I can remember my grandfather’s last day at Westinghouse, I think it was in 1984—we’ve been waiting for a spark of some kind, and [for someone] to really take a chance here and get a factory up and running again.”

Now, that’s happened, Forgie says. Eos, a company that makes a zinc battery for storing renewable energy—a safer and more sustainable type of battery than lithium-ion—is quickly scaling up inside the old Westinghouse factory building.

[Photo: Eos]

The company originally planned to make batteries in China and ship them to the U.S. for the final steps of production. But they realized that it was more practical to work locally, especially as an early-stage, cost-constrained company. “As we grow our manufacturing and we’re trying to decide on our manufacturing processes, we need to be able to put our hands on the product every day,” says CEO Joe Mastrangelo, who came to the battery company after more than two decades at GE.

One of Eos’s investors connected the company with RIDC, an organization that redeveloped the Westinghouse factory into a modern industrial space. In 2019, Eos started to set up a new plant in the old building and hired local workers. When the Inflation Reduction Act passed in 2022, with new incentives for clean energy businesses working in the U.S., demand surged for Eos’s product. (To date, the IRA has incentivized more than 300 new clean energy projects, and more than $123 billion in American investment.) The Department of Energy also gave the company a nearly $400 million conditional loan guarantee.

Eos now has around 300 employees in Turtle Creek, and plans to have nearly 1,000 after it scales up production over the next two years.

As the jobs grow, the town is changing. “You’re starting to see the community come back to life, little by little,” says Bill Porter, who works on the production line at Eos. Porter’s great-grandmother and great-uncle had previously worked at Westinghouse. Growing up, he’d seen the area decline, with hulking vacant old factory buildings slowly falling apart.

[Photo: Eos]

It was hard to find a good job, Porter offers, having previously worked at a machine operator at a local business. “It was a small company and there was no opportunity for advancement,” he says. Now, EOS is paying for him to take a three-year course in mechatronics that will give him a chance to move forward in his career.

“We promote from within,” says Mastrangelo. “When you come in, you usually start off in the warehouse and work as a machine operator. From a machine operator, you can become a supervisor, then you can be a shift supervisor and you can be a supervisor for buildings. What we’re trying to do is develop career paths for people.” The company also trains local high school students who previously had few options for work straight out of school.

Employees are finding new financial security. “You walk on the factory floor and talk to some of the workers and they start telling you, ‘I bought my first new car,’ ‘I bought a house,’” Mastrangelo says. “Every employee in Eos has stock, from the janitor up to me. Everybody owns equity if you work at Eos. I have people who when they first joined the company, [we had to explain to them] how direct deposit works. Now, they’re talking to you about stock price. I think it just gives people the hope there’s still that American dream of being able to grow into the middle class.”

“You look out in the parking lot, and you see nice cars,” says Porter. “You see people having a purpose and making good pay, and we’re just excited to be doing all the training we’re doing right now. This is a big moment.”

In the 1980s, around 12,000 people lived in Turtle Creek. Now the population is around half that. But the mayor believes that Eos can help attract new businesses and could also help convince some people to move back.

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