State and local officials promised electric vehicle maker Rivian nearly $1.5 billion in tax breaks and other incentives to build a factory east of Atlanta, the most lucrative package of inducements Georgia has ever offered for what Gov. Brian Kemp calls the largest economic development project in state history.
The record package includes free land, a state-owned training center, a new interchange along I-20 between Social Circle and Rutledge and a bounty of local and state tax breaks.
In exchange, Rivian committed to create 7,500 jobs and transform a nearly 2,000-acre tract straddling Walton and Morgan counties, documents released Monday show. The signed agreement paves the way for site development to start this summer, state Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson said.
State officials say the eye-popping commitment of public resources is crucial for a generational opportunity to create high-tech manufacturing jobs at the planned $5 billion plant and ensure Georgia claims its spot in the electrified future of the automotive industry. It’s unclear how many states pitched Rivian, but Texas was another finalist for the project.
“It’s very competitive for excellent projects, and this is an excellent project,” Wilson said. “The return on this (investment) is the people whose lives are changed.”
At full buildout, the wages of Rivian workers could total about $420 million per year, Wilson said.
But critics contend Rivian, a well-funded startup, is a risky bet. Rivian faces tough competition from entrenched giants like Tesla, Ford and General Motors. It’s also grappling with logistics challenges worsened by global supply chain problems.
And the project has faced intense local pushback from a grassroots network of nearby residents who say that Kemp and other state officials neglected to get buy-in from residents surrounding the area, about an hour east of Atlanta.
The fallout has also unexpectedly factored into Kemp’s campaign for a second term as former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the governor’s main GOP rival, framed the public incentives as a naked election-year ploy conducted in the “dark of night” and said he would have nixed the project.
Kemp and his allies have maintained what officials from both parties often say after a mammoth deal is struck: It was Georgia’s talented workforce, quality of life and pro-business reputation that helped cement the agreement — and that incentives were just a sweetener.