Electric vehicle startup Rivian and state and local officials signed off Monday on a deal announced last December to build a $5 billion manufacturing plant east of Atlanta that will create 7,500 jobs.
In exchange for what Gov. Brian Kemp has touted as the biggest economic development project in Georgia history, state and local economic development agencies will dole out $1.5 billion in incentives including tax credits, a 25-year no-cost lease and $198.1 million in site and road improvements on 1,978 acres.
The deal was signed by representatives of Rivian, the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Joint Development Authority of Jasper County, Morgan County, Newton County and Walton County.
The $5 billion Rivian project will eclipse the state’s investment in SK Battery America, which began producing EV batteries at its new plant in Commerce in January, Georgia Commissioner of Economic Development Pat Wilson said Monday. The 7,500 jobs Rivian will create when the plant is fully built out by the end of 2028 – with an average salary of $56,000 a year – will surpass the Kia automotive plant in West Point the state landed in 2005, Wilson said.
“The majority of Georgia incentives come from job tax credits,” Wilson said. “The more jobs you create, the higher the incentives will be.”
Local residents have expressed concerns about such a large project’s impact on traffic, noise levels and water quality. Four committees the state has put together will address issues including quality of life, local business engagement and site design.
The state and the local development authority submitted an application with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last Friday for a federal Clean Water permit.
“We’re going to make sure we abide by all the federal rules and regulations when it comes to the environment,” Wilson said.
Another committee will work with the state Department of Labor’s Quick Start program on how to prepare the region’s workforce for the new jobs the plant will bring.
The Rivian project has become an issue in the Republican gubernatorial primary campaign.
Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Kemp in the May 24 primary, argued during several debates in the last week that the state shouldn’t have offered such rich taxpayer-funded incentives to lure Rivian. He said a better approach to economic competitiveness would be to eliminate the state income tax, as neighboring states including Tennessee and Florida have done.
But Wilson said Georgia needs to provide tax incentives because competing states are doing so.
“If it were a level playing field … Georgia would win our share of projects,” he said. “But this is not a level playing field we’re in. … States all across the country have jobs incentives.”
Wilson said the 7,500 jobs Rivian will create when the plant is fully built out will generate an annual payroll of $420 million, or $10.5 billion over 25 years, more than justifying the $1.5 billion in incentives.
“The long-term ripple effect of that will touch every community in the area,” he said.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.