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The Emerging Leader in EV Production: Georgia, not Michigan

From cars to school buses to battery manufacturing, no state can match Georgia's corporate investments. They’re making a real impact in communities across the state, creating thousands of permanent jobs.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp check out a Rivian R1T electric truck
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and First Lady Marty Kemp check out a Rivian R1T electric truck during a press conference across from the State Capitol in Atlanta on Dec 16, 2021, after the company confirmed plans to build a $5 billion assembly plant and battery factory in Georgia. (Hyosub Shin/ Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)
Since the first Ford Model T rolled off the assembly line in 1908, Detroit and Michigan have been synonymous with the American automotive industry. But in the age of the electric vehicle, amid a renaissance in domestic manufacturing, Georgia is quietly but confidently emerging as the undisputed national leader in the electrifying auto sector.

It sounds like a provocative claim, but the numbers don’t lie. According to the Clean Economy Tracker and new data analysis by Atlas Public Policy and the CHARGE coalition, Georgia currently leads the nation in committed investments and permanent jobs in EV and battery manufacturing, beating out Michigan and every other state. Since November 2021, when the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law began to inspire further corporate investment in clean energy, a whopping $22 billion and nearly 24,000 new jobs in private-sector EV and battery manufacturing have been announced for Georgia.

These investments are already making a real impact in communities across the state. For example, Blue Bird’s factory in Peach County has taken advantage of the infrastructure law’s Clean School Bus program, helping companies shift production away from polluting diesel engines toward more efficient electric buses. Blue Bird’s electrified iconic yellow buses are cleaner and safer for the kids who ride them and the neighborhoods in which they operate. Today, its Fort Valley facility employs 2,000 workers in a town of only 9,000 residents — and Blue Bird has already announced plans to ramp up production from two EV buses per day to 20. Blue Bird is also developing a “registered apprentice” program to train workers in partnership with local colleges, high schools and trade schools.

Hyundai is another automaker that has several EV and battery-related operations in Georgia. The company just entered into a memorandum of understanding with Savannah Technical College to provide prospective EV industry employees with training for jobs related to shop operations, electrical principles and the servicing of hybrids and EVs. Similar programs also now exist at Columbus and Augusta Technical Colleges. These newly trained workers will support growing manufacturing sites: Hyundai’s $7.6 billion assembly plant in Ellabell is projected to create upward of 2,000 construction and 8,500 permanent jobs that will eventually build 300,000 EVs annually.

Domestic automakers are also expanding their operations. The American electric SUV and pickup-truck maker Rivian plans to build its second production facility in the state; it is anticipated to employ 7,500 workers by 2030.

The infusion of EV and battery-industry funding driving this growth is supported directly by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and tax credits codified through the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. FREYR, the Norwegian battery company, chose to build a $2.6 billion facility near Atlanta instead of in Norway because of the IRA’s incentives. Out of 130 options across 25 states, the Atlanta metro area was selected due to its strong connections to air, sea and rail ports and robust engineering workforce trained at schools like Georgia Tech.

During this chaotic election year, it’s no secret that EV policy has become a lightning rod for partisan politics, with Democratic leaders often claiming to be pro-EV and Republicans against. However, Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, recently visited the Kia plant in West Point to celebrate the hundreds of new jobs accompanying the production of the EV9, an EV that won recognition as the North American Utility Vehicle of the Year. Interestingly, 97 percent of the nearly 24,000 EV and battery manufacturing jobs announced for the state since the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are in congressional districts represented by Republicans.

These EV facilities aren’t just creating much-needed jobs and tax revenues for the state — they’re cementing Georgia’s place as a major technology hub in the growing clean-energy economy. As Kemp said during his visit to West Point’s Kia factory, after driving the first Georgia-built EV off the production line, “We are working to become the e-mobility capital of the nation.”

Stan Cross is the electric transportation director at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. This article is republished from the Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original here.

Governing’s opinion columns reflect the views of their authors and not necessarily those of Governing’s editors or management.
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