UMWA, SPARKZ team to build ‘climate-tech’ union workforce

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The United Mine Workers of America has entered into a memorandum of understanding with battery maker SPARKZ which is expected to build a plant in West Virginia.

UMWA representative and state Senator Mike Caputo, D-Marion, credits UMWA President Cecil Roberts.

Mike Caputo

“Absolutely incredible, President Cecil Roberts has a vision and is able to broker a deal like this with someone who is going to be a major manufacturer, I believe,” Caputo said Wednesday during an appearance on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town.”

Many believe SPARKZ will soon announce where it will build. Many former coal miners are waiting for the news with hopes for new opportunity, Caputo said.

“They talk about maybe 350 jobs initially,” Caputo said. “I have had conversations with the CEO personally and this could grow into thousands of jobs and it’s going to be a great investment in the state of West Virginia.”

Tensions on the world stage are providing a comeback currently for the coal industry. European countries looking to cut the use of Russian energy, increasing natural gas costs and difficulties with renewable energy options have increased the demand and price for coal. Caputo said you’re never sure how that will last.

“When things are good, like they are right now- they talk about how all the miners are working and they’re working all the hours they can, but they lose sight of the thousands of coal miners that have already lost their jobs across this state and across this nation,” Caputo said.

SPARKZ and the UMWA will recruit and train the first group of displaced mine workers to staff the West Virginia facility.

“They understand the great work ethic of West Virginians and it’s a great place to live and it’s going to be a great place to work,” Caputo said.

Roberts called the agreement a “win-win” for both sides.

Cecil Roberts

“This is a first step to putting some of those people back to work in good, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs. We look forward to working with SPARKZ to build on this initiative as traditional energy workers meet the challenges of the ongoing energy transition.” Roberts said in a news release.

SPARKZ has announced plans to establish their research and development unit in the Morgantown area. Unconfirmed reports indicate the company is in the final stages of site selection for the production facility.

“I feel good about this one- I’ve talked to the CEO personally and I’ve always considered myself a good “gut check” kind of guy and I feel like they are going to make this investment,” Caputo said.

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