Business-friendly Democrat visits Logan high-tech firm

Michael Armstrong (center), the chief technology officer of Electric Power Systems, discusses the fine points of battery technology with gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson (left) and Nathan Millecam (right), the company's co-founder and chief executive officer.

LOGAN – With many Democrats now espousing trendy progressive agendas in the upcoming general election, gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City is one of the few high-profile Democrats still unconditionally voicing support for the business sector.

“I aspire to be the type of governor that Cal Rampton and Scott Matheson Sr. were,” Peterson says, referring to the populist Democrats who served as Utah’s governors consecutively from 1965 to 1985.

“They were governors who represented rural, urban and suburban Utahns,” Peterson emphasizes. “Like them, I also want to be a governor who is friendly to business.”

Peterson brought what he describes as his “moderate, reasonable” campaign to Logan in early July to meet with executives of Electric Power Systems.

Electric Power Systems is a privately held aerospace company that leads in developing advanced energy storage systems comprised of cells, power electronics, controls, software and thermal management systems. The company is involved in the development of a host of electric and hybrid-electric airplanes such as the all-electric NASA X57, the Bye eFlyer, and Bell Nexus air-taxi.

Located adjacent to the Logan-Cache Airport, Electric Power Systems is, in layman’s terms, pioneering the development of batteries for electric-powered aircraft.

Peterson’s running mate, Karina Brown of Nibley, praises Electric Power Systems as a prime example of the kind of “dynamic and innovative enterprises” that are becoming increasingly more important to Utah’s economy.

Nathan Millecam, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Electric Power Systems, explained that powering aircraft is just one possible application of his firm’s batteries. Other markets for light-weight, powerful and reliable batteries include the defense, aerospace, automotive and marine industries.

Electric Power Systems only recently completed its relocation from California to Utah, attracted by the state’s reasonable cost-of-living, recreational opportunities and a blossoming research and development partnership with Utah State University. Some of the company’s nearly 100 employees migrated from out-of-state; others are interns and recent graduates from USU.

Millecam said the EP System’s research into battery-powered aviation has the potential to reduce the expense of civilian air-travel enough to make battery-powered commuter flights from rural locations like Logan to metropolitan areas feasible, particularly if those aircraft had vertical take-off and landing capability.

The implications of a sweeping change in personal air mobility would be revolutionary, Peterson said. Traffic congestion along the Interstate 15 corridor could be reduced. City workers could live in rural areas and still commute to jobs in reasonable periods of time. Moreover, electric aircraft would not contribute to air pollution along the Wasatch Front.

As a planning step toward that transportation transformation, Millecam added the EP systems has purchased enough property adjacent to the airport that a farm of solar panels could be constructed in the future. That would allow the company to inexpensively recharge aviation batteries with renewable solar power.

If elected, Peterson pledged to ensure that Utah invests economic development funds in dynamic, innovative businesses like Electric Power Systems.

“Here in Utah, we believe in the free market system,” Peterson said. “But it never hurts to give the market a nudge in the right direction … I say let’s pioneer our future by developing Utah as a high-technology center.

“We can start that process by making sure that we have the resources and people-power … to attract innovative businesses with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit. Because those businesses will help us bring about the bright future we are all hoping for.”

Peterson will face-off against Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox  in the November general election.

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