Electric vehicle supplier building $325 million plant near Statesboro

Aspen Aerogels is building a $325 million manufacturing plant in Bulloch County that will produce special materials that will contain potentially disastrous fires in electric vehicles.

The 500,000-square-foot plant is scheduled to open next year and will employ about 250 people, said company officials.

“It is a pretty significant project,” said Don Young, chief executive of the 21-year-old company

Inclement weather delayed a ceremonial groundbreaking on Thursday.

Aspen Aerogels is based in Northborough, Mass., about 40 miles west of Boston.

Its revenues this year will be about $150 million, while the new plant will produce up to $650 million a year in products, said Young.

State economic development officials are working to build a network of companies with ties to the burgeoning electric vehicles industry. The state has used tax subsidies and other incentives to encourage those companies to locate here.

Late last year, Rivian announced plans to construct a $5 billion factory near Covington in Atlanta’s eastern exurbs to make electric trucks and SUVs. SK Battery America is building a $2.6 billion EV battery plant northeast of the city.

The package used to lure Rivian included $125 million in land and training costs. That could far surpass the more than $400 million that Georgia offered Kia Motors 15 years ago to win a smaller vehicle-assembly plant in West Point.

Officials this week declined to say what incentives were offered to get Aspen Aerogel to locate in Georgia. Young said the perks mattered, but not enough for the company to make a bad business decision.

“Those incentives, as a signal, are very important,” he said. “But they don’t change our math dramatically.”

Aspen Aerogels will make “thermal barriers” that can be wrapped around piping or slid between potentially combustible materials within an electric vehicle’s batteries to prevent any fire from getting out of control.

Hiring is expected to start in a few months. The company is looking for skilled operators, process operators, maintenance technicians and professional support staff, company officials said.

Though many companies in the state are trying to find workers right now, Aspen Aerogels officials said they are not worried about filling slots at the plant.

The most recent government data shows a 3.6% unemployment rate in Bulloch County, just slightly higher than the state average. Among the area schools are Ogeechee Technical College, Georgia Southern and the Savannah College of Art and Design.

The company believes it can offer pay, benefits and a culture that will entice workers, Young said. “Our approach is to be a preferred employer,” he said. “We want to draw employees from a 50-mile radius.”