Electric aircraft developer plans Covington factory with 1,000 jobs

Georgia, an EV hub, announces battery-powered air taxi plant

An electric aircraft developer plans to open a manufacturing facility in Covington with 1,000 jobs, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Monday.

Santa Clara, Calif.-based Archer Aviation Inc., which is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for air taxi service, plans to build its first manufacturing facility next to Covington Municipal Airport in Newton County. The airport is about 37 miles east of Atlanta along I-20, and the factory site is a short drive to the future Rivian electric vehicle plant that is expected to employ 7,500 workers.

Archer plans to start construction next month and start hiring in late 2023, with the facility opening in the first half of 2024 and starting production later that year. The first 350,000 square-foot-facility would be able to produce 650 aircraft a year, according to Archer.

The company could eventually expand to three buildings on more than 96 acres, with the ability to produce as many as 2,300 aircraft a year. Archer said it plans to invest $118 million in the facility over 10 years.

But it’s yet to be seen which companies will succeed in the fledgling electric aircraft and air taxi industry. Research and development costs of the aircraft are high, the operators must obtain federal certifications and develop a customer base for a new service.

Adam Goldstein, founder and CEO of Archer, said in a written statement that “we continue to progress towards commercialization.”

“Our goal of creating Urban Air Mobility networks across major cities nationwide requires us to ramp production of our aircraft. This facility represents a huge step toward ensuring we can meet this challenge head-on,” he said.

Archer is part of a burgeoning industry seeking to develop the concept known as urban air mobility, using electric aircraft that operate like helicopters to transport people within cities, avoiding highway and road traffic.

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Delta Air Lines last month announced a $60 million investment and partnership with its an air taxi startup, Joby Aviation. Joby recently pushed back its planned launch of commercial passenger service to 2025. Delta is targeting its hubs in New York and Los Angeles for the service, where it envisions electric air taxis could transport passengers from their homes to the airport to connect to Delta flights.

Archer has partnered with United Airlines, and the two companies announced earlier this month plans to launch their first phase of commercial electric air taxi service in 2025 from downtown Manhattan to Newark Liberty International Airport.

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The Georgia Center of Innovation’s Aerospace industry team helped the state compete for the Archer manufacturing facility project, part of an effort to foster the aerospace and defense industries here.

“Our established leadership in the aerospace industry was essential to landing Archer Aviation in Newton County,” Kemp said in a written statement.

Details of potential incentives to lure Archer were not immediately known, but the company is likely to qualify for inducements including tax credits for newly created jobs.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development worked with the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Newton County Industrial Development Authority and other state agencies to compete for the project. The Archer facility will be on a parcel that was set aside for development.