SK Battery ushered EV sector into Georgia. Now it is cutting some jobs

Battery-making partner of Ford and Volkswagen says it still employs 3,000 in Jackson County, far more than it initially promised
Workers make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles at the SK Battery America plant in Jackson County. (SK Battery America)

Credit: SK Battery America

Credit: SK Battery America

Workers make lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles at the SK Battery America plant in Jackson County. (SK Battery America)

SK Battery America in Jackson County, among the foundational manufacturers in Georgia’s electric vehicle ecosystem, is laying off workers after years of rapid expansion.

SK Battery declined to say Tuesday evening how many positions are involved, but the company has confirmed that a group of workers have been laid off in Commerce, about 70 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, where the subsidiary of South Korea-based SK Innovation has two lithium-ion battery manufacturing facilities.

“The … facility has experienced some job reductions,” said Joe Guy Collier, a spokesman for the company. “We are not disclosing the number of job cuts.”

Automakers and suppliers have announced tens of billions of dollars in promised EV investment in Georgia and tens of thousands of new jobs, courted with billions in state and local government incentives. But Tuesday’s news marks what may be the Georgia EV sector’s first significant loss.

Collier declined to provide other details about the cuts.

The factory still has 3,000 employees, which is more than the original staffing goals, Collier said. However, layoffs were needed because SK Battery is “aligning production with current market demands.”

The cuts are also related to improvements in the facilities that make some operations more efficient, requiring fewer employees, he said.

SK Battery America nears completion of its $2.6 billion plant in Jackson County. The factory will make electric-vehicle batteries for Ford and Volkswagen. It will employ about 3,000 workers.

Credit: SK Battery America

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Credit: SK Battery America

Earlier this year, officials said hiring in the Commerce facilities had exceeded the company’s previously stated goal of 2,600 employees.

EV batteries are critical pieces to the electrification of the auto industry, and automakers are devoting billions to that transition. EV sales are growing, but automakers face a challenge investing billions building new plug-in vehicles and their supply chains while convincing consumers to switch. Economic turbulence and interest rate hikes intended to temper inflation haven’t helped.

The SK Battery facilities in Jackson County supply batteries for Ford and Volkswagen EVs. Ford recently announced plans to pause construction of a battery plant in Michigan with technology from a Chinese partner.

Since 2018, Georgia has attracted $25 billion in announced investments and 30,000 promised jobs in the EV industry, according to the office of Gov. Brian Kemp.

SK Battery helped usher in that wave. Soon after SK’s arrival, EV upstart Rivian announced plans for a $5 billion factory east of Atlanta and Hyundai Motor Group is building a $7.6 billion factory near Savannah. Hyundai is also partnering with another unit of SK Innovation, called SK On, on a multibillion-dollar battery plant in Bartow County.