Moxion's Giga Factory construction continues despite announced layoffs

Moxion's Giga Factory construction continues despite announced layoffs
Photos/ Linda Hemmila

Despite announcing layoffs that will gut the bulk of its Richmond crew, construction continues on what will become the expansive Moxion Giga Factory at the Port of Richmond.

In a surprise move last week, Moxion filed a WARN notice with the Employment Development Department, stating the planned layoffs in August would impact “up to 101 employees" at the company’s Richmond location at the Ford Assembly Building.

Impacted positions will include 28 Battery Associates, five warehouse associates, and four quality technicians, among others.

Moxion Power is a developer and manufacturer of zero-emission mobile battery storage modules. These modules are used as backup power for businesses, homes, and even hospitals. Because they are mobile, the battery modules can be used anywhere, including construction sites, replacing diesel-powered generators.

Madison Capital and Meadow Partners, who own the Ford Point property, purchased it from Orton Development for $103.8 million in 2022. They leased the parcel to Moxion to build their Giga Factory as part of the planned Portside Commerce Center. The new Giga Factory will be a 214,900-square-foot battery manufacturing facility that promises mobile energy storage products and temporary power solutions.

Richmond Planning documents say the facility could create 432 new jobs, including 374 hourly and 58 salaried employees. According to the plans, employment opportunities will include manufacturing engineers, production technicians, and warehouse managers.

However, with the company cutting its existing workforce, the future of those plans is currently unclear.

According to a construction worker at the site, large roof sections are currently being moved into place as planned, and building progress remains unaffected by the announced layoffs.

“We aren’t affected at all. We are working on the roof right now, moving 8x50 sq ft sections into place, and we are right on schedule,” the worker told Grandview.

Governor Gavin Newsom visited Moxion last year, using the stop to announce California’s clean energy roadmap, “Building the Electricity Grid of the Future: California’s Clean Energy Transition Plan.” This scheme is focused on attaining the state’s clean energy and climate goals.

Moxion Power’s construction has raised a few eyebrows in Richmond, with some residents expressing concern about safety at a plant manufacturing batteries.

However, Richmond Fire Interim Chief Michael Smith says he has no concerns about safety at the facility.

“I am confident that when The Maxion Giga Factory receives their Certificate of Occupancy all life and safety issues or concerns have been addressed and meets all appropriate portions of the Building and Fire Codes,” Smith said.

According to former Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, a permit from Bay Conservation and Development Commission has yet to be issued for the proposed battery factory because the area is reserved for Port use and needs to first meet certain conditions.

“There has never been a BCDC permit issued for the project. At one time, City policy was not to issue building permits until after BCDC permits had been issued. Guess that no longer applies,” Butt said. “This is in a BCDC Port Priority Area, which is supposed to be reserved for Port uses. Moxion has no relationship to a port, but both BCDC and the City of Richmond caved in and permitted it. Politics is stronger than public policy. Shame on them both.”

The property's zoning designation is IW—Industrial Water-Related, and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) has designated it a “Port Priority Use.” The State Lands Commission has specific guidelines for port lands under its jurisdiction.

According to the Richmond Design Review Board communication, the proposed building was little more than a shipping and receiving tilt-up. The DRB made numerous recommendations to ensure the structure was designed as a port building rather than just another "big box" warehouse.

Those recommendations included casting in concrete the words "Port of Richmond." They also included a customs and immigration office with a secure entry on the port side, a longshoreman's union locker room/restroom area, and a formal "Port of Richmond" entry office, including a flag pole and canopy.

Because the project was a non-port use, the DRB recommended that it align with Richmond's General Plan policies, which include public access, revenue generation for the city, and helping to increase tourism at the ferry entry.

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