St. Joseph County has approved an incentive package worth more than $250 million in an attempt to win what would be the largest economic development project in its history.
On Tuesday, the Redevelopment Commission, the Board of Commissioners and County Council unanimously voted in favor of agreements Tuesday that could bring a $2.5 billion battery plant for electric vehicles to the west side of the county near New Carlisle.
It now is up to Ultium Cells, a joint venture between GM and LG Energy Solution, to decide whether the proposal from the county and the state is its best choice for the EV battery plant.
Ultium Cells plant:St. Joseph County in the running for massive $2.5B plant, 1,000+ new jobs
What’s at stake
The battery plant would be built on 680 acres at Larrison Boulevard and Indiana 2. Even though the land is currently being farmed, the county acquired options on the property over the past few years that would allow Ultium to meet its construction deadlines.
In addition, environmental impact studies already have been performed and most utilities are already near the site, meaning that the project could get underway late this year or early next year with completion targeted for 2025.
At its peak, the project would employ about 2,000 construction workers. Though the company hasn’t made any decisions yet, union construction labor has been used at three previous Ultium battery plants in Ohio, Tennessee and Michigan.
Ultium has said the plant will employ 1,600 at the 2-million-square-foot plant, and that the annual payroll would be about $75.2 million a year with average hourly wages of just under $23 per hour or $47,000 per year with health insurance, GM and LG discounts, and other benefits provided the first day.
Using traditional economic impact formulas, the 1,600 permanent jobs at Ultium would create or support another 1,200 jobs in the community, said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The facility will have a ripple effect throughout the region with all industries and workers feeling the impact of this transformational project," Rea said.
Just the two-year construction phase of the project would have a $1 billion impact on the region, and the plant itself would have an annual economic impact of at least $652 million a year once it is operational, Rea said, adding that his figures are conservative estimates.
Ultium Cells plant:St. Joseph County takes 1st step to compete for $2.4B battery factory
Trying to secure the project is so important that the Chamber created a spot within its website that answers nearly every question that could come up regarding Ultium Cells and possibly cause a delay in the time-sensitive project. Since December, the project has been the main focus for the Chamber as well as the county's economic development staff.
What’s being offered
According to its development agreement, the county is offering 15 years of personal property tax abatement ― starting at 100% and sliding to 70% after five years. It also is offering 80% abatement from real estate taxes for 10 years.
In addition, the county is proposing to spend about $15 million to $17 million, connecting and implementing upgrades to allow the proposed plant to connect to New Carlisle water, South Bend sewer, natural gas lines, and some other site and roadway improvements.
St. Joseph County will issue bonds for its commitments, but those will be repaid by future tax collections from the company, said Bill Schalliol, the county’s executive director of economic development.
The county also will work with the Indiana Department of Transportation on upgrades at the intersection of Larrison and Indiana 2 to accommodate the increased truck and vehicle traffic if Ultium decides to locate just east of New Carlisle.
INDOT has committed $2 million for improvements at the intersection of Indiana 2 and Larrison on top of significant improvements to the highway that were previously scheduled. Beyond the employees working on two shifts, the plant is expected to add a combined 150 trucks a day to the heavily traveled artery.
Though nearly all operations are expected to be contained within the proposed plant, monitoring wells also will be installed to ensure the safety of the aquifer below the site, Schalliol said, adding that the subtraction of farm irrigation at the Ultium site and the nearby Honeysuckle Solar Farm will result in the aquifer delivering an average of 1.2 million fewer gallons a day.
“With the monitoring and the demand reduction, it’s a real win for the aquifer,” Schalliol explained.
Protection of the aquifer, traffic safety and elimination of open space seemed to be the highest concerns among residents who provided input at the Tuesday meetings.
Beyond the estimated $260 million in tax abatement as well as other incentives from the county and INDOT, the Indiana Economic Development Corp.already has come to an agreement with Ultium on a package of incentives for the project. Among other things, those typically involve state tax credits for job creation, job-training assistance and more.
Ultium officials said Tuesday the company will make a final decision before the end of the year. "We've considered other locations," said John Blanchard, director of local government relations for GM. "But we're really honed in on this location."
Email Tribune staff writer Ed Semmler at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: St. Joseph County rich incentive package for $2.5B EV battery plant