The SK Battery plants in Commerce are proceeding despite an unfavorable ITC ruling, said Jackson County economic development director John Scott on Feb. 19.

Speaking to the boards of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and Jackson County Industrial Development Authority, Scott said that plans to begin production at SK's first plant in March are moving forward. Meanwhile, SK's lawyers are attempting to answer questions raised by the ITC ruling, a ruling that found SK had stolen trade secrets from rival LG Chem to produce its batteries. 

Scott said that SK has three basic options: Appeal the ruling, work out a deal with LG Chem or hope that the Biden Administration will overturn the ITC's ruling.

He noted that President Biden had issued an executive order related to supply chain dynamics, including the supply of EV batteries. Scott said that most EV batteries come from China and that if that country shut off that supply, it would hurt U.S. manufacturing of EV vehicles.

"SK is at least two years ahead of everybody (in building a U.S. supply)," he said.

IDA chairman Scott Martian said the pandemic "taught us all a lesson" about being dependent on foreign supply chains.

Scott said that regardless of what happens with SK, the taxpayers of Jackson County would be protected. He said that the amount the company had already paid the county has covered all the costs the county had provided upfront. Contractually, SK's payments are supposed to continue even if the plant doesn't produce batteries.

WORKFORCE ISSUES AND NEW PROJECTS

In other development news, Scott said that he had been fielding questions recently about the area's workforce supply. There are a lot of signs around the county soliciting workers and he said that had "spooked" some businesses.

Meanwhile, he said there are four main big projects on the radar in the county: One in Jefferson, a supplier for SK in Braselton, a timber products industry looking for 300 acres to do wood processing and a high-tech "trailer" manufacturing company.

IDA ACTION

In other business, the IDA approved offering a contract to WTI to purchase two lots at the Central Jackson Business Park in Jefferson. WTI is a food system supplier and has its headquarters in the park.

The IDA board also reviewed its 2019 audit, which finished the year with over $635,400 in its net position. There were no audit findings.

CHAMBER ELOST EFFORTS

The chamber is taking the lead in Jackson County in promoting a Yes vote on the upcoming March 16 SPLOST vote for education.

Early voted for the election opened Feb. 22.

Chamber president Jim Shaw noted that ELOST revenues are important to the county's three school systems and by extension, local industries. He said he would like to see the vote pass overwhelmingly so as to send the message that Jackson County supports education.

The chamber is buying billboards, producing flyers and working on social media to promote a Yes vote on the issue. The SPLOST is a continuation of an existing sales tax dedicated to funding education facilities and other capital projects.

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