In 2010, soulbrain MI Inc. invested $30 million to start a plant in a 10-year-old vacant building in Northville. soulbrain MI Inc. is a manufacturer of electrolytes – a critical component of the lithium ion battery.soulbrain’s first name was TSC Michigan, which was named after its parent company in South Korea,TechnoSemiChem Co. Ltd. The name changed to soulbrain MI in May of this year. Soul is a homonym with Seoul, the capital city of Korea. The new name soulbrain MI is indeed ‘Seoulbrain in Michigan’.
Mr. Ibara, the president of soulbrain, brought all the tanks and pipes as well as all the necessary hardware and software from Korea to install in the plant. At that time, They brought 10-year-advanced technology to Michigan.
soulbrain MI is growing in Michigan, which claims to be the world center of the battery industry. Chief Executive Officer Allen S. Ibara expects revenue to be between $40 million and $70 million in 2012. “We hired 25 engineers last year. We will double the number by the end of this year. As we grow, we will eventually expand to more than 200 engineers in five years” said Ibara.
However it is not an easy task to find the right candidates in Michigan. “Simply because the technology we are dealing with does not exist in North America. We find new grads in chemical engineering, chemistry, material science from local universities, such as University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, but we need to send them to Korea so they can learn the new process,” Ibara said.
“Many students think they are done with learning after graduation, but it is not what they learned in School.” Ibara is looking for candidates who are adaptable to the new technology and those who are not easily frustrated when learning something new.
Korean and Japan started research in advanced battery technology 10 years ago. They are far more advanced than USA. Currently Ibara needs to import some foreign talent to fill the positions because he cannot find the right ones in the US. In these cases, he has to go through the tough immigration processes to get the H-1 visa for his employees. “I mean it; it’s tough and tiresome,” he added. After they arrive here, getting driver’s license is another huddle to go over. “The process is not foreigner-friendly. Even though they are legally here to work, it is a very slow and inconvenient process to get driver’s licenses,” said Ibara.
Michigan could be the center for automotive battery manufacturing. Michigan could manufacture not only the electric vehicle but also the advanced lithium-ion battery, the core of the electric vehecle. Ibara sais, “To make the real center of the industry, Michigan needs to creat more international-friendly environment.”
Ibara is satisfied with the current location because it is close to major highways and airports.
However, he experienced technical difficulties in setting up the new plant. The internet speed was so slow that he had to install fiber optics. As a foreigner, he had a hard time setting up a business because there was no business landing service. “It was not easy opening a business checking account, getting the enough electrical power, contacting the water department and obtaining construction permits. I couldn’t locate any temporary office space before opening this site. A start-up incubator is something necessary,” Ibara said. Even though such a service is available through Techtown, he was not aware of it when he needed the service the most.
Michigan is a good place for Ibara. “Because it has a good infrastructure; good schools for my employees’ kids, low cost of living and less traffic congestion,” he added. If he has the power to change one thing in Michigan, it would be the cold winters. As a former Californian, the first winter in Michigan was harsh. “…but it is better than hurricanes or earthquakes ,” he is becoming a true Michigander as the third winter is approaching.
soulbrain MI Inc.
47050 Five Mile Road
Northville Township, MI 48168
By Tack Yong Kim
Michigan Korean Weekly
soulbrain MI (formerly TSC Michigan) engages in the research and development and pilot production of advanced materials for the production of lithium ion battery. Its products include electrolyte and lead tabs. Electrolyte is one of the core components in lithium ion batteries. In addition to electrolyte, soulbrain also provides lead tabs for the lithium ion polymer battery with the technology of newly acquired LTK Ltd (Lead Tab Korea). Its parents company, Techno Semichem Co.,Ltd has been one of the fastest growing Korean manufacturers of chemicals in the display and semiconductor industries since founded in 1986. soulbrain MI was incorporated in Northville, MI as North America Headquarter in 2010.