RALEIGH – Industrial recruiters for North Carolina refuse to give up fighting to land a vehicle assembly plant, a victory long denied by companies such as Mazda, Volvo and Toyota.
On Tuesday, a group representing a so-called mega development site in the Triad made a pitch for Tesla, using an aircraft to fly a banner over the electric vehicle manufacturer’s plant in California.
“Tesla come to NC. We want you @ GRmegasite,” the banner read, referring to the 1,825-acre site in Randolph County that borders Guildford County.
And today a spokesperson for Mahindra – the India-based builder of vehicles and tractors – confirmed that North Carolina remains in contention for a factory should it win a big net-generation vehicle contract from the US Postal Service.
Asked about vehicle plant recruiting, the North Carolina Department of Commerce wouldn’t say much.
“Thanks for touching base and for you interest, as always,” said David Rhoades, Communications Director for Commerce. “But as you know well, while we talk to many companies about their site location strategies and the advantages of doing business in North Carolina, we don’t discuss those conversations nor share any documentation until such time as the organization makes a public announcement of their site decision.”
However, last August Rhoades told TechWire that “speaking generally, it’s well known that North Carolina and several of our local communities have been making the necessary preparations to attract an automotive assembly plant or other large-scale manufacturer.”
A vehicle plant could mean thousands of jobs, hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, and lead to additional infrastructure development as well as related jemployment affiliated with a plant.
COVID-19 is part of the Tesla plant story
CEO Elon Musk threatened to move his huge California operation after local officials refused to let him reopen it due to the coronavirus. Musk moved ahead anyway, and rumors began circulating immediately that a new factory might be built. He also said in April that a new plant could be announced in the near future.
Early talk attributed to an unnamed official said Austin, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma were the top contenders. Tesla has wanted a scond facility to boost distribution along the East Coast.
The Associated Press reported that a “person briefed on the matter” said company officials visited Tulsa in the past week and were shown two sites.
“It wasn’t clear if there were any other finalists in the mix,” The AP added. “The person, who didn’t want to be identified because the site selection process is secret, said no final decision has been made.”
Enter the NC megasite pitch.
“We know that Tesla is looking at locations for its next manufacturing facility and we believe the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is an excellent choice,” Kevin Franklin, executive director of Randolph County Economic Development Corp., told the Triad Business Journal.
“As we are rethinking how we make marketing calls and outreach in a time of social distancing, we thought this was a unique and effective way to get Tesla’s attention.”
The Mahindra plant
Last August, Mahindra openly declared North Carolina as a possible location for a plant if the company won a $6 billion contract to build the USPS vehicle.
However, that project has been pushed back by the postal service to July after a decision was originally expected in December.
“We remain one of several finalists for the contract and will be submitting a final proposal in July,” Rich Ansell, vice president of marketing for Mahindra Automotive North America, told WRAL TechWire.
“We are continuing to work through our site selection process and expect to make a final decision in the next two to three months.”
Mahindra already builds recreational vehicles at a plant in Michigan and has talked about a former autoplant at the Michigan city of Flint as a possible site.
[By the way, North Carolina businessman Louis DeJoy recently was named to become US Postmaster General as of June 15.]
What NC can offer
Should talks get serious about a plant, here’s how Commerce describes the Job Development Investment Grant, or JDIG, that could be offered under legislation approved in 2018 when the state also was competing for Amazon HQ2 and a new Apple campus:
- “For companies that create 1,750 jobs and invest $500 million in North Carolina, their project is categorized as a High-Yield Project (HYP), allowing a JDIG grant reimbursing up to 90% of the new personal income withholdings, for a period up to 20 years.
- “A JDIG Transformative Project award, for a company that creates 3,000 jobs and invests $1 billion in the state, can provide reimbursements up to 90% of the new personal income withholding for a period of up to 30 years.”
Local incentives such as site prep and reductions or waiting of property taxes could also be on the table.