Local, state and business leaders plan Rivian community meetings

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Officials from state and local agencies and the private sector will lead an upcoming series of public forums to discuss the planned $5 billion Rivian electric-vehicle plant with community residents.

The panels were created in response to neighbors’ opposition to the factory that had threatened to derail local zoning approvals about 45 miles east of Atlanta. Gov. Brian Kemp has called Rivian the largest economic development project in Georgia’s history.

The state on Monday afternoon announced the members and leaders of four groups, each with up to 12 members. Each group was assigned one of four topics: environmental concerns, quality of life, worker training and local business participation.

Rutledge resident JoEllen Artz, a Rivian opponent who was named to the quality of life committee, said the panels likely won’t address concerns that an electric vehicle factory is not suitable for the rural community.

“These committees are window dressing,” she said.

Chas Moore, who helped organize a legal fund to challenge the plant, said Artz is the only known Rivian opponent named to a committee.

The committees will issue recommendations to the state and Rivian after final meetings, which will be open to the public. Meeting dates and locations have not been set.

Rivian is expected to begin construction at the 2,000-acre site this summer and start production in 2024. The company expects to hire about 7,500 workers.

Cox Enterprises, owner of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, owns a 4.7% stake in Rivian and supplies services to Rivian. Sandy Schwartz, a Cox executive who oversees the AJC, is on Rivian’s board of directors and holds stock personally. He does not take part in the AJC’s coverage of Rivian.

Local and state officials named as committee leaders work for the state Department of Community Affairs, the Newton County Development Authority, electric utility Georgia Power and other organizations. Community members named to the committees include local school superintendents, small business owners, real estate developers, state legislators and others.

Local elected officials had been scheduled to vote this month on whether to rezone the rural property for industrial use but faced pressure from area residents unhappy with the plan.

Last month, the state announced it was assuming control of the project and withdrew rezoning applications. The state can more easily bypass local zoning laws.