SK Innovation announced last week that it plans to build as second battery plant in Commerce, increasing its investment in its Commerce battery operations to a total of $2.5 billion, up from the $1.6 billion it initially projected.
On April 29, the SK board of directors approved building a second battery facility in Commerce, expanding its electric vehicle footprint in North America.
“From our earliest discussions with SK Innovation, it was apparent that they had big plans," said Scott Martin, chairman of the Jackson County Industrial Development Authority.
SK Innovation broke ground on its first plant at the Commerce site in March 2019 and is expected to begin production out of that facility in 2022.
“The City of Commerce is fortunate to have a partner like SK Innovation," said City of Commerce mayor Clark Hill. "Their continued investment in our community is consistent with the projection that (SK's) chairman Kim made last year. I’m pleased to see our tax digest grow again with a further promise of quality jobs in this region.”
Construction on the second battery plant is expected to begin in July at the same site in Commerce with production to start in 2023.
So far, Jackson County has not been asked by SK for further incentives to develop its second plant, said John Scott, the director of economic development for the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce.
The county reached a deal with SK for the first plant to have a system of payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT). The county received its first PILOT payment from SK of $1.3 million last week, county manager Kevin Poe told the IDA's board of directors Friday.
At that same meeting, Scott told the board that grading for the first phase of the SK project has been completed.
“The automotive industry is undergoing a major revolution," Scott said. "In addition to being environmentally friendly, many EVs are seriously high-performance vehicles thanks to advances in lithium-ion battery technology. Consumers and automakers are making the switch from gas to electric in huge numbers. I foresee a lot of growth coming for both SK Battery America (SK Innovation) and Jackson County.”
SK's announcement comes amid the COVID-19 virus pandemic, a situation that has caused a lot of economic anxiety about the nation's — and the world's — economy. The announcement gave some reassurance to Jackson County leaders that the local economy might not be hurt too badly from the virus pandemic.
“Even in these difficult times, SK Innovation continues to be a great partner with our community," said Tom Crow, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners. "We are excited to be a part their growth in the EV battery business.”
SK Innovation has said it could invest as much as $5 billion in its U.S. battery business and create as many as 6,000 jobs.
“While the global community faces challenging times, SK Innovation believes it is important to continue making strategic investments to drive economic growth and meaningful change,” said SK Innovation CEO Jun Kim. “With this investment, SK Innovation’s battery business will significantly contribute to not only the local Georgia economy, but the development of the U.S. EV industry value chain and ecosystem.”
When both plants are complete in 2023, the Georgia site will join facilities in Europe and Asia to give SK Innovation a projected annual global capacity of 71 GWh, making it one of the leading makers of EV batteries in the world.
The Commerce plans will have a combined annual capacity of 21.5 GWh, officials said.