Canton Repository

May 26, 2005

Alliance company lands federal cash

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — U.S. taxpayers would give an Alliance-based developer of fuel-cell technology and Rolls-Royce $3 million to develop a component of future energy technology under a provision that Rep. Ralph Regula added to a spending bill approved by the House on Tuesday.

SOFCo-EFS in Alliance and Rolls-Royce would split the $3 million, which Regula said could help persuade Rolls-Royce to build its North American headquarters for fuel-cell technology in Ohio.

“I believe this funding ... will help bring Rolls- Royce’s fuel-cell headquarters to Ohio along with many new jobs and industry,” said Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.

Regula used his clout as a high-ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee to include the money in a $29.7 billion spending bill that funds the Department of Energy and Army Corps of Engineers. For the companies to receive the funds, the Senate would have to agree to Regula’s provision. The Senate has yet to pass its own version of the legislation.

The $3 million would support the development of a fuel processor, part of fuel-cell technology that could serve as a clean, efficient source of standby power at power plants in the future.

Regula also reserved $1 million in the legislation to support a brain-mapping research project at the Cleveland Clinic.

SOFCo-EFS and Rolls-Royce are working together to develop the fuel processor, which the London-based engine manufacturer needs as part of a fuel cell it would market to utilities.

Rodger McKain, SOFCo-EFS president, called the $3 million “significant.”

“It provides the basis for us to create a new product line, this fuel processor, for Rolls-Royce, and we see it more importantly as an endorsement of the technology that we have been developing over a number of years,” he said.

McKain defended the government aid as justified by the potential future benefits of the technology, which he said include reduced dependence on fossil fuels, lower emissions and cheaper electricity.

“In the business climate that we have today companies just cannot afford to do that (the research) on their own,” he said.

The Regula grant would build on a state effort to promote the high-tech industry in Ohio. Gov. Bob Taft’s Third Frontier initiative has provided almost $4 million in state funds for a Fuel Cell Prototype Center under construction at Stark State College of Technology in North Canton.

SOFCo-EFS plans to move its fuel-processor operation from Alliance to the Stark State center when it opens next year.