The chief executive officer of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce says a proposed electric vehicle battery plant in St. Joseph County would be one of the largest projects ever for the region and could mean more than 1,000 jobs and over $2 billion in investment. Still, Jeff Rea says several key steps must occur before Ohio-based Ultium Cells LLC decides to build the manufacturing plant in northern Indiana. The company, a joint venture between General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) and South Korea-based LG Energy Solution, has filed a tax abatement application with the county to build a factory in the town of New Carlisle.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Rea said investments have been made in recent years to make that part of the county attractive for development.
“We’ve long thought we had one of the better sites in Indiana for large industrial. We have the concentration of utilities, transportation, workforce,” said Rea. “We’ve been working with Ultium on a potential project out there. They have shortlisted our site, and they are now seeking incentives related to that project.”
LISTEN: Rea further explains to Inside INdiana Business reporter Wes Mills how the process may play out in the coming weeks.
If approved, the project would be built in the Indiana Enterprise Center development area near New Carlisle, a town of approximately 1,800 people just west of South Bend.
While Rea could not share specific details of the incentives that Ultium is seeking, he says more information will be released Tuesday when the St. Joseph County Council considers the tax abatement request. The chamber CEO says when the council meets in September, it will likely make a final determination on the abatement.
“I think the county has done a good job over the last five or six years in terms of putting some things in place to be attractive for development. Previously, there’s a lot of risk out there with just too many uncertainties,” said Rea. “They’ve invested some dollars to take away the uncertainty developers want. I think some of that upfront investment that they have made has made it attractive.”
The company is saying very little about the project other than to confirm it “is developing a competitive business case for a potential large investment that could be located in New Carlisle, Indiana,” said Ultium spokesperson Brooke Waid.
The site in Indiana would be Ultium’s fourth U.S. battery cell manufacturing plant.
Production at Ultium’s first U.S battery cell plant in Warren, Ohio is set to begin later this month. The companies announced the $2.3 billion plant in 2019.
In January, GM and LG announced a $2.6 billion investment to build a new battery cell plant in Lansing, Michigan set to open in late 2024.
The partners are also building a $2.3 billion plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Rea says Ultium is considering other locations for the new plant. He feels the St. Joseph County location has the infrastructure, zoning, and support in place for this project.
“We’ve had a lot of suitors interested in the site. This seemed like an ideal fit, given the company, the track record, the kind of the things they’re doing in the United States,” said Rea. “We expect it to have a significant economic impact, should it advance. We know we’re still early in that process, though.”
The Ultium project is the latest electric vehicle battery venture in the state. In May, automaker Stellantis and Samsung SDI announced plans to build a battery plant in Kokomo.