Pat Wilson

The Georgia Department of Economic Development is charged with working with local communities to market our state’s business advantages, with the end goal of creating jobs and opportunities for Georgians.

Just under two years ago, we announced an enormous job and opportunity-creating project in Jackson County. This two-phase project is an economic game-changer, with the potential to create significant benefits not only for the county and the City of Commerce, but for businesses across Northeast Georgia.

This project – the SK Innovation lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Commerce – is already creating economic benefits as the site is under development. While these construction jobs are temporary, the company is well on its way to making a difference for the 2,600 individuals SK Innovation will soon directly employ for the long term.

Additionally, this project, operated by South Korea’s largest energy company, has already resulted in suppliers locating within the surrounding area. These suppliers will also invest in Georgia and create additional jobs on top of those created directly by SK Innovation. One such supplier has already announced it will alone create 300 new jobs. The magnitude of this multi-tiered project will serve as a foothold for Georgia to take advantage of the rapidly growing electric vehicle industry.

Hiring for long-term production jobs at SK has already begun, too. SK Innovation just announced they are well on their way to fulfilling the $2.6 billion investment commitment and 2,600 promised jobs they will create in our state. Sixty new long-term employees are already working at the site. These engineers are part of the initial electric vehicle battery production team – and the company is planning to employ nearly 200 by year’s end.

Georgia Quick Start and Lanier Technical College have already started specialized training and are a major part of why this project decided to locate in the region. Our technical college and university systems truly set Georgia apart from other states in attracting investment and preparing an able and ready workforce here in the state.

If you drive along I-85 northeast of Atlanta, you can’t miss the progress taking shape. A battery plant nearly a half-mile long is nearing completion. A second battery plant, a mirror image of the first, is underway, too.

The SK Innovation site is part of a major shift taking place in the auto industry toward electric vehicles.

SK Innovation’s battery business across the world already include Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai-Kia Motors – two other companies with major operations both here in our state and next door in Alabama. Volkswagen and Ford are counting on battery cells specifically from SK’s Georgia site to power new electric vehicles planned for U.S. production, and we believe Georgia will play a major role in the success. Other manufacturers will undoubtedly follow. By 2040, more than half of all new passenger cars sold globally, about 54 million vehicles, will be electric, according to projections by BloombergNEF.

Our state’s partnerships with our communities are a source of pride, and this partnership resulted in an agreement with Jackson County, our area economic development partners and SK Innovation that we should be proud of, too.

A similar milestone project opened just over a decade ago in West Point, Georgia. The state-of-the-art Kia Motors automotive manufacturing facility created nearly 3,000 direct jobs and indirectly led to thousands more as an ecosystem of auto suppliers were attracted to the area. Some estimates have credited as much as 15,000 new jobs in west Georgia and eastern Alabama directly tied to the Kia facility, with many more restaurants, hotels and professional service jobs supporting all this economic activity. Those jobs create better lives, and they add to our state’s bottom line.

Further, like the state’s agreement with Kia, the state and local incentives offered in the agreement with SK Innovation are tied to job creation, and are only able to be fully taken advantage of when the long-term positions are added. The vast majority of state and local incentives are future credits or tax savings that SK Innovation receives only when they create new jobs.

The SK Innovation project is expected to generate $271 million in revenue for Jackson County over the next 20 years. Almost $160 million of that will go to local schools. The 2,600 jobs being created when the plants are operational will be highly skilled, long-term jobs that will be filled almost entirely by local residents, creating additional income, sales and property taxes.

I am a native of Northeast Georgia, with a long family history in nearby Franklin County. I couldn't be more excited to see this kind of opportunity come to my home region.

International companies that invest here in Georgia become a vital part of our state’s communities. The SK Innovation project is unequivocally a great deal for the state, especially as we work hard to generate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The EV battery plants in Commerce will put Georgia in the driver’s seat for the next era of the auto industry and ensure our economy keeps growing at a time when we need jobs most.

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