The state’s top economic development official expressed disappointment Monday with electric vehicle manufacturer Rivian’s decision to delay building a new plant east of Atlanta but said the company remains committed to Georgia.

“It stings,” Georgia Commissioner of Economic Development Pat Wilson told members of a state Senate budget subcommittee. “(But) this company has said they will live up to all their promises and commitments. … Until we hear otherwise, this is an active project.”

Rivian executives announced last Thursday a pause in the company’s plans to invest $5 billion in an EV plant near Covington that would create 7,500 jobs. Instead, Rivian will manufacture its new R2 midsize SUV model at an existing plan in Normal, Ill.

To land the deal, the state and the local development authority offered Rivian $1.5 billion in incentives including tax credits, a 25-year no-cost lease, and $198.1 million in site and road improvements on 1,978 acres.

Thus far, the state and the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton Counties have spent $141 million to acquire the property, prepare the site and drain wetlands, Wilson said Monday.

For its part, Rivian has made two payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the development authority totaling $3 million. Sixty percent of those payments will go to local school systems, he said.

“The payments don’t stop because they’re paused,” Wilson told the subcommittee. “The community is going receive a benefit even though there’s no active construction.”

Under an agreement Rivian signed off on in 2022, the company must fulfill at least 80% of its investment and jobs commitments by the end of 2030. Rivian has committed to maintaining those timelines. 

“We’re under the obligation to allow them to live up to their commitment,” Wilson said.

Several senators said they were uncomfortable with letting the site sit empty potentially until the end of 2030 waiting for Rivian to fulfill its part of the deal.

Wilson said he expects Rivian’s intentions for the site likely will become clear well before 2030. If the company doesn’t come through on the project, the site is attractive enough that it won’t be hard to find another manufacturing tenant, he said.

“We would have no trouble at all filling that spot,” he said.

Committee members differed in their expectations for what will happen with Rivian.

“There is a distinct difference between a pause and a pullout,” said Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus.

But Senate Majority Whip Randy Robertson, R-Cataula, was less hopeful.

“If they come back to Georgia and start making good on their promises, I’ll be the guy who says, ‘I’m surprised,’ ” he said.

Dave Williams writes for Capitol Beat News Service


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