Rivian electric vehicle plant may be coming to Georgia

EV startup looking to expand production beyond Illinois site

Georgia may be in line for a new car factory, this time for vehicles powered by electricity instead of gasoline.

Electric truck and SUV maker Rivian Automotive is in late-stage discussions to open a vehicle manufacturing and battery plant east of Atlanta along Interstate 20, according to people with knowledge of the deal. The people stressed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the negotiations aren’t final yet, and details could change.

Irvine, California-based Rivian said Monday it “is in discussions with multiple locations as part of a competitive process for siting a second manufacturing facility.”

“This may include Rivian being involved in certain public facing processes at potential locations. Involvement in these processes does not indicate a final decision,” the company added in a statement.

The Rivian project likely would be one of the biggest economic development deals in Georgia in a decade, with the potential to bring thousands of jobs while cementing the state as a powerhouse in the electric vehicle industry. The state of Georgia has aggressively recruited Rivian for months in an effort to grow its automotive sector.

The Rivian factory is slated for property in the area of Morgan, Newton and Walton counties, people familiar with the discussions told the AJC. The precise location was not disclosed, nor was the size of the investment.

Andrea Gray, attorney for the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties, declined to comment.

Rivian shares began trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange last Wednesday after its initial public offering valued the company at more than $100 billion, one of the largest IPOs in years. Its investors include Amazon, Ford and Cox Enterprises, parent company of the AJC. Sandy Schwartz, chief executive of the Cox Family Office, is a Rivian board member and oversees the AJC.

Rivian has one plant, located in central Illinois, and has scouted properties nationwide to expand production, according to media reports. Texas had been reported as a leading contender to land the new Rivian plant.

Georgia’s last big victory on the vehicle manufacturing front came in 2006, when a bounty of state and local tax breaks worth more than $400 million helped woo Kia to put a plant in West Point, 75 miles southwest of Atlanta. Kia makes gasoline-powered vehicles at the plant, which opened in 2009.

It’s unclear what incentives Georgia has offered Rivian, but the state has provided a “mega project tax credit” for some projects. Georgia floated $2 billion in incentives, including the tax credit, to Amazon in 2018 in its failed effort to recruit its second headquarters.

Rivian would be the latest company in the electric vehicle or EV sector to locate in Georgia. SK Battery America is building a $2.6 billion EV battery plant near Commerce. Gov. Brian Kemp this year formed a task force of private and public sector leaders to study ways to expand the industry.

The AJC reported in July that Georgia pitched a megasite industrial property near Savannah that it owns as a potential location for an automotive manufacturer. The state also pitched sites closer to Atlanta. It was unclear Monday why Rivian may have chosen the I-20 site east of Atlanta over the Savannah-region megasite.

Georgia has had some near-misses in the automotive recruiting wars, including being the runner-up in 2015 for a Volvo plant that went to South Carolina.

Hopes for a deal between Apple and Hyundai to make electric autonomous vehicles at Kia’s plant in Georgia evaporated earlier this year, stalling prospects for what could have been a big, jobs-heavy economic infusion in the state.

Georgia is seen as attractive for automotive makers because of its shipping ports in Savannah and Brunswick, its interstate highway network, and a labor force where 5% of workers are union members, one of the lowest rates in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Companies typically pay less to workers who aren’t in a union.

The site reportedly chosen by Rivian may be located close to the Stanton Springs industrial park near Social Circle, which is already booming with development. Facebook is building a data center there and South Korean company SK Group plans to build a plant there to make glass parts for computer chips.

Rivian began delivering its first electric vehicles to customers in September. The startup company aims to compete with Tesla, the world’s largest EV maker, and legacy automakers like Ford and General Motors which are converting product lines to electric from gas.

Rivian has a deal to produce 100,000 delivery vehicles for Amazon by 2025. Unlike Tesla, which mostly sells sedans, Rivian is focusing on trucks and SUVs, which are more profitable for automakers.