Alexa Sweeney Blackann, Rick Stockburger

Brite-Sweeney Partnership Bolsters Valley’s EV Future

WARREN, Ohio — A new partnership between Brite Energy Innovators and Sweeney Chevrolet Buick GMC will support the business development hub’s mission of supporting startups and advancing electric vehicle technologies.

The dealership donated $10,000 to Brite that will be put towards its entrepreneurial services, Brite president and CEO Rick Stockburger said during the presentation of the check from Sweeney.

“It’s helping companies start here in our facility and go out into our community,” he said, adding that it specifically will provide mentorship and lab access.

Brite’s focus on electric mobility and the dealership’s enthusiasm for the future of electric vehicles, particularly General Motors EVs and its Ultium Cells venture, makes for an ideal partnership. Sweeney president Alexa Sweeney Blackann said the partnership represents an optimism and commitment to “our shared future in EV leadership in the state of Ohio.”

Stockburger said Brite must match every state and federal dollar it gets with local donations.  Sweeney Blackann said her company wants to help stretch those dollars.

“We committed $10,000 to their efforts — they are great stewards of dollars from the state and federal levels, and this helps them stretch that,” she said.

Stockburger said the donation is validation of the community’s support for Brite and that it “sees the value that we provide.” He said partnerships with community organizations is essential, and they give Brite the fuel it needs to help startups create jobs and grow revenue in the community.

Petra Power is one of those startups. Petra Power manufactures solid oxide fuel cell power units for auxiliary power units used in the aerospace, automotive and shipping markets, CEO Aaron Goodman said. He said the fuel cells are a way to “enable cleaner and more efficient utilization of fossil fuels and to help usher in cleaner fuels like hydrogen in the future.”  

The company recently moved from its home base of Casper, Wyo., to Warren for its strong manufacturing and technological presence. “It’s not always an easy decision to come to a smaller place like Warren,” Goodman said. “I think that companies continue to choose to do so because of the future that they see — they see a future that is built on community strength and investment.”

Brite is the only energy incubator in the state and has assisted more than 600 energy tech startups with mentorship, funding assistance and over $230 million in investor connections. Goodman said that Brite helped his startup survive the periods of financial uncertainty and helped fill in the gaps when technical knowledge and networks lacked.

“We feel fortunate to have been here and continue to be here for at least for a little bit longer while we can still fit in their lap.”

For both Stockburger and Sweeney Blackann, the partnership stems from a desire to support and grow the community of Warren and the Valley’s EV initiative. Stockburger says not every corporation is a good fit to be a partner of Brite and having that shared EV vision is vital.

“We have an opportunity in Voltage Valley to be committed to the future. When we’re looking for corporate partners. That’s what we’re looking for,” he says.

 As Brite continues to grow and has a foot in nearly every Ohio county, Stockburger said it will always have its headquarters in Warren — one of the best places in the world to start an energy company, he said.

He adds that the recent passage of the CHIPS Act of 2022, a historic legislative package including funding for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, secured what he said is a bright future for the Valley.

 “The Mahoning Valley is the future of manufacturing. We just saw the CHIPS act that just went through, and it’s going to reignite manufacturing here,” he said. “It’s so important to make sure that we’re engaged together and that we can grow this community because that’s what’s important — the Valley has a strong, strong future.”

Pictured at top: Sweeney president Alexa Sweeney Blackann and Brite president and CEO Rick Stockburger.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.