WEIRTON, W.Va. (WTRF) — It’s the biggest manufacturing deal West Virginia has seen in decades—and it’s found a home in the Northern Panhandle.

Form Energy officially started construction on their energy storage plant at the site of the former Weirton Steel mill.

It will be called Form Factory 1…and its celebration Friday drew attention far beyond the Panhandle.

The U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Senator Joe Manchin, and the state Economic Development Secretary Mitch Carmichael all came to Weirton over the potential of iron-air batteries they’ll soon develop here.

They say these 55 acres will keep the Mountain State on the cutting edge of energy production.

“West Virginia has powered this nation for the last 100 years. And we want West Virginia to power this nation for the next 100 years.”

Secretary Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Department of Energy

Those batteries will store energy for long durations when there isn’t wind or sun.

The company says it will make for more flexible renewable energy that’s more independent from countries that don’t share our values.

But Senator Manchin says it won’t be a threat to our traditional coal-fired plants.

“We’re still going to be using our coal, we’re going to use our gas, and we’re going to use oil. We need the heavy horsepower that comes from fossil fuels, and we’re going to do it cleaner and better.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, (D)-West Virginia

CEO Mateo Jaramillo says this day could have never come without the state’s help.

In February, Governor Jim Justice signed off on $290 million for the plant, which is about 40 percent of the total cost.

Senator Manchin made clear his belief that the Inflation Reduction Act and its technological investments were also key.

“You cannot eliminate your way to a cleaner environment, but you can innovate your way through technology, and show the whole world how to use what they’re using cleaner, so it’s better for the environment.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, (D)-West Virginia

And one of the most exciting benefits apart from the energy are the jobs.

They’re expecting to hire at least 750 people, with about 50 percent manufacturing and 50 percent engineers and managers.

They’re expecting to start up the machines in mid- to late 2024.

“They’ll take anybody that wants to sweep the floors clear up into management areas. So you take your resume, go down there, have the interview, they’re looking for it.”

Tim Connell, Weirton City Council

As for their reasons behind selecting Weirton—
The company says it’s close to their Pennsylvania pilot facility, and that the locals have a long history of being familiar with manufacturing.