by Rick Smith — December 6, 2021
RALEIGH – It’s official. Toyota will build a battery manufacturing plant in Randolph County, with an initial investment of $1.29 billion.
The announcement was made earlier this afternoon at an event held in person at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, where Toyota will build its first battery manufacturing plant in the country.
“Toyota could have chosen anywhere in the United States for this first battery place, and they chose us,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “We’re encouraging more electric vehicles on the road and in our state government fleet, and as all of this progress continues, the world will look at North Carolina as a hub of clean energy and clean energy jobs.”
The state ranked first in the nation in an April 2021 analysis of rural clean energy jobs, and ninth in the nation in clean energy jobs overall.
The facility will be operated by a new entity, Toyota Battery Manufacturing of North Carolina, according to Christopher P. Reynolds, the Chief Administrative Officer, Corporate Resources, at Toyota Motor North America, who spoke at the event.
Reynolds presented Governor Cooper with two presents, an aluminum model car, and a representation of one of the batteries that will be constructed at the new facility, which Reynolds said planned to come online in 2025 and could produce as much as 1.2 million batteries annually.
“We will be building our brand new, very first, battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. right here in Randolph County in the great state of North Carolina,” said Reynolds. “Today marks only the beginning of a long and mutually beneficial partnership and strong relationship with the Tar Heel State,” said Reynolds.RELATED: Randolph County lands Toyota battery plant
Toyota had previously announced it would invest some $13.5 billion globally, including $3.4 billion in the United States.
Reynolds noted that the investment of $1.29 billion in the site in Randolph County, through 2031, would be “just the beginning” of the company’s relationship with the state of North Carolina.
The facility will create 1,750 new jobs, said Reynolds, and workers will help the company “develop and localize automotive battery production, which will pave the way for battery-powered electric vehicles in North America,” said Reynolds.
“I’ll be as clear as I can,” said Reynolds. “This is only the first chapter of our story in North Carolina,” he said, adding, “It’s a very long book.”
“Once this new battery plant becomes operational,” said Reynolds, “The best is yet to come.”
Toyota to receive a new type of economic incentive from North Carolina
Toyota’s involvement in the project was confirmed during a Monday morning meeting of the state Department of Commerce’s Economic Investment Committee, where state incentives were approved.
Toyota has been approved for a new type of Job Development Investment Grant, a “transitional JDIG class,” that would refund the company $79.1 million in employee withholding taxes over 20 years if it meets annual hiring and investment targets. Those targets are based on a total of 1,750 jobs created and $1.29 billion invested by 2026.
The state budget also included $135 million to benefit this specific project, including $100 million for site work and wetlands mitigation at the site and another $35 million for associated road construction and wetlands mitigation elsewhere in Randolph County.
At a meeting of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners on Monday morning, officials described Project Darwin as a “transformational project” that would bring more than 3,000 jobs with an average salary of at least $62,234 – about $28,000 more than the median annual wage in Randolph County.
Commissioners heard that the employer was already considering an expansion which would bring the total project to $3 billion, with 3,875 jobs.
Golden LEAF, a Rocky Mount-based economic development foundation, also has pledged $40 million to the state Department of Transportation for needed road upgrades in the area.
The Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation is the developer of the 1,800-acre site. It recently sought approval for a grading permit, The Greensboro News & Record reported.
Bloomberg News reported last month that Toyota was considering North Carolina for the plant.
The state has long sought to land a big plant in the auto industry, and the megasite has been considered before by Toyota, according to media reports.
“It was four years ago that the NC leadership came together to promote this site to us,” said Reynolds. “It was due to the North Carolina leadership’s enthusiasm, perserverance, and cooperation across party lines,” said Reynolds. “That we are here today.”
Impact of an automotive plant
North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden said the impact of the project will be immense.
“By big boost, I mean in the billions of dollars,” Walden said. “Auto plants are sought after for several reasons: They bring large numbers of jobs and payroll; they provide good-paying employment for workers who don’t have four-year college degrees (something that is critically important in the age of globalization); they can have a significant in-state supply chain effect – thereby increasing the total job impact by at least 50% above those in the factory – and they do add to a state’s business reputation, meaning more firms will consider North Carolina for a location.”
“The landing of a firm would confirm the wisdom of North Carolina’s more pro-active strategy in competing for these large companies, by having sites ready and political agreement over an incentives package achieved,” he added.
Developers of the site area sought a similar permit in 2018 when Toyota was considering the land for an auto plant, the News & Record noted.
Image: Randolph County NC Economic Development Corporation. Caption: Greensboro Randolph Megasite is 1825 acres City of Greensboro would provide water & sewer to site. This site is KPMG certified. Located in an Opportunity Zone.
The recently approved North Carolina state budget called for $320 million in economic development incentives for what would be called a “transformative” project.
John Quinterno, of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, told WRAL TechWire that another economic development project could be coming to the Triangle.
“I did see that the technical corrections bill at the legislature … contained $107 million in money for infrastructure investments for the Piedmont Triad Airport contingent on the awarding of a high-yield JDIG [Job Development Investment Grant] award for an airplane manufacturer in Guilford County,” Quinterno said. “Not sure if that is the same thing [as the megasite] or something different. I know HondaJet already is in Greensboro, so perhaps they are planning an expansion.”