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Corporate

EaglePicher Technologies Leads the Way in Specialty Battery Production

In 1906, Eagle White Lead Works merged with Picher Lead Company in Joplin, MO to create what would eventually be EaglePicher Technologies, which has provided a model of stability for almost two centuries.

By Evan Greenberg

Mar 2019

EaglePicher Technologies, Joplin, MO
Photo courtesy The Joplin GlobeGordon Walker, president and CEO of EaglePicher Technologies, celebrates the grand opening of a new lithium ion facility in 2016.

EaglePicherʼs community is one that is hard to achieve. Based in Joplin for generations and founded in 1843, the company has been a leader in battery production since the 1940s, when America entered World War II and the need for the types of batteries EaglePicher could produce grew exponentially. Now, EaglePicher Technologies is a worldwide supplier of batteries to some of the biggest industries in the world. If someone in aerospace needs a battery, theyʼll likely get it from EaglePicher.  The same is the case for the military. EaglePicher is a part of the major industrial complex, establishing a reputation for ingenuity and reliability, all in the heart of southwest Missouri. “Over time, there have been different divisions of EaglePicher that have been added or developed within the company and have been sold for one reason or another,” says Ron Nowlin, Vice President and General Manager of Aerospace Systems. “It used to be much more diverse. Now we’re focused on the batteries and power systems.”

A big point of pride for the company is its headquarters. Itʼs based in Joplin, and 750 of its 950 employees are employed there. There are also branches in Vancouver, Rhode Island and San Francisco, but Joplin is by far the biggest. “If you talk to anybody [in Joplin], there’s a tremendous amount of pride, particularly when you think that the company’s been [in Joplin] for such a long period of time,” Nowlin says. “There’s a lot of people that, they’re in their third [family] generation working at EaglePicher. When you think about sending product into space or sending astronauts into space or protecting our soldiers from harm’s way, that you’re making products that are key pieces of systems that help protect our soldiers, that’s a really big thing.” Just because EaglePicher is specialized doesn’t mean that it has a small reach or impact. "Anyone that lives around the Joplin area, they know EaglePicher," Nowlin says. It's been a steady force here for a long time. It helps the economy with high-paying jobs." 

EaglePicher has been around for almost two centuries, and although it focuses on batteries now, it traces its history back to two different fields: white lead processing and mining. In the early 1900s, the Eagle White Lead Company merged with the Picher Mining Company, and EaglePicher was born. Its roots are in zinc and lead-based mining. From there, it was a sort of natural progression. “Around the 1920s, the company started doing a lot of different research activity around lead and zinc-based products, and that’s what led the company to start thinking about batteries that were based out of those compounds,” Nowlin says. 

“When you think about sending product into space or sending astronauts into space or protecting our soldiers from harm’s way, that you’re making products that are key pieces of systems that help protect our soldiers, that’s a really big thing.”
— Ron Nowlin, Vice President and General Manager of Aerospace Systems, EaglePicher Technologies

When war broke out, the company starting supplying batteries to the U.S. government for the various machines and equipment it employed. Since then, EaglePicher has become more and more specialized, realizing what it does well and what works. Its emphases now include batteries for a range of applications in defense, aerospace and implantable medical equipment. EaglePicher knows what it can do and where the demand for its products are—it shies away from what you might think of when you think of a battery; you won’t see EaglePicher producing a battery that can go into the back of your cell phone anytime soon. 

What you will find EaglePicher batteries supporting are missile applications, the Hubble Telescope, the International Space Station and space research missions. EaglePicher partners with heavy hitters. The nice thing about being in a market like this: Once you become a player, you establish familiarity. As long as you continue to deliver good product, there’s no reason for organizations to really look elsewhere.

As for the future, a lot of battery production has shifted to the lithium ion battery space, and EaglePicher produces multiple varieties of this battery. The company has seen a good amount of growth over the past few years as it reaches out to adjacent markets, namely in the commercial and aviation space.  

“The company has really taken a strategy and a focus around power products in markets where the product just can’t fail,” Nowlin says.