SANFORD – Gov. Roy Cooper may announce in the near future that an electric vehicle manufacturer based in Vietnam has selected a site in Chatham County for a new assembly plant as well as a factory to build batteries, according to media reports.  The announcement may come following the approval of a state economic incentives package.

Both the Chatham News + Record and Triangle Business Journal have identified the company as VinFast.

The project would produce as many as 13,000 jobs, and the company plans to invest several billion dollars, the reports say.

The site would be at Triangle Innovation Point, which recently was rejected as a location for a semiconductor plant by one company.  Sources told WRAL TechWire earlier this year that between 15 and 20 companies were in active consideration of the site for projects.

“An official announcement from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office is expected within the week,” wrote Bill Horner III, the publisher of the Chatham news site, on Friday.

There are two “specially called” meetings of the Economic Investment Committee that occur this week, one on Tuesday afternoon and another on Thursday afternoon.  According to the event details listed online, the agenda for each meeting notes “one or more economic development proposals will be considered.”

North Carolina has tried and failed for years to attract an automaker. However, that may be changing.

N.C. State economist Mike Walden called it a gamechanger for VinFast coming to Sanford.

“Of course, we’re going to have probably another 10,000 [jobs] created simply due to downstream effects,” Walden said. “I estimate that might pump a billion dollars a year into the local economy.”

Walden the state’s investment in mega-sites may be helping. Toyota’s new EV battery factory in Randolph County may have also helped, and it could have a snowball effect. He said electric vehicle technology could become the state’s next biotech.

“Oftentimes, like businesses like to be in the same general area because they can all take advantage of the labor force that’s maybe being trained with the skills they want, common things that they buy that they can apply, they can actually attract suppliers,” Walden said.

Some people may not be excited about such a huge project. The Triangle area has seen one big job announcement after another recently. The housing market already can’t keep up with demand, and prices and traffic are already on the rise. But However, says locating the factory at the edge of the Triangle could help ease those problems.

“It’s looking at Chatham County, which I would consider to be sort of on the periphery of the core counties,” Walden said. “And that’s, I think, exactly what we need to have to happen. I think that can that can give us the best of both worlds, we can continue to grow.”

VinFast is expected to receive a generous incentives package. The state economic development committee has to approve it. The committee is scheduled to meet twice this week.

With new growth does Triangle risk becoming another Atlanta? Economist says …

Who is VinFast

VinFast has committed to building an assembly plant in the United States. Its CEO recently toward Reuters news service that the company had narrowed its choices to three from some 50. 

It began building gasoline-powered cars in 2019 and is committed to become a produce of only electric-powered vehicles within the next couple of years.

Vinfast currently is accepting reservations for vehicles, according to its website.

“We will build our gigafactory [for batteries] in the U.S. as well,” Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vingroup vice chair and VinFast Global CEO told Reuters in January.

Production in the United States is expected to begin in 2024, according to the company.

“The era of shipping cars around the world is over, especially since COVID-19. You must have the factory close to the market in order to win over your customers,” VinFast said in a statement, cited by Reuters.

VinFast plant in Vietnam. (VinFast image)

‘Growing in importance’

North Carolina recently was selected for a battery plant to be built by Toyota.

“You can’t understate how important it is to have a company such as Toyota, with Toyota’s stature, make this sort of selection,” said Chris Chung, CEO of EDPNC0 in a December 2021 interview with WRAL TechWire after Toyota made its announcement.  “It establishes North Carolina as a hub for a sector that we know is going to be growing in importance for the American economy in the decades ahead.”

The North Carolina Department of Commerce did not respond to a request for comment from WRAL TechWire for this story.