New details surrounding a potential electric vehicle battery plant in New Carlisle were unveiled during a St. Joseph County Council meeting Tuesday night. The council unanimously approved a declaratory resolution establishing an economic revitalization area inside the Indiana Enterprise Center for Ultium Cells LLC’s plans for a $2.4 billion facility that would create 1,600 jobs. However, the joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solution is still considering other sites and has not yet committed to a location.
John Blanchard, director of government relations for GM, was part of the presentation to the council.
“We hope to have a decision on a potential project yet this year, [a] very aggressive timeline,” said Blanchard. “Once we’ve decided on a location, we anticipate the start of construction to late 2022 or early into 2023, and then the start of operations would be in 2025.”
Ultium says the estimated 1,600 jobs associated with the project, which would come with an average hourly wage of $22.60. The facility would also cover about 2.5 million square feet of space, according to Blanchard.
Tom Gallagher, vice president of operations for Ultium, told the council the project would also create up to 2,000 construction jobs. He said the company would also be on the lookout for partnerships to find the necessary workforce.
“We see partnerships as being important at the high school level all the way through secondary education and even into college education as we want to identify skill sets and train and develop the workforce,” said Gallagher. “Partnership have been a key aspect in all of our locations and will be the same in this space as well.”
Ultium is currently building three similar facilities in Warren, Ohio; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Lansing, Michigan. The Ohio plant, set to open this year, is currently hiring and Gallagher says hiring at the facility has been successful.
“We’ve had an acceptance rate of greater than 90% for our job offers. At this point, we’re onboarding people at a range of about 70 per week with no concerns,” he said. “Nearly 30%-40% of the workforce are people who are re-entering the workforce.”
The approval of the declaratory resolution is the first of three steps to pave the way for the project in New Carlisle. The council will consider a confirming resolution on September 13 and if that is approved, the final step would be the drafting and approval of an economic development agreement.
Blanchard adds the company is looking at all options for local, state and federal incentives for the project. Ultium last month was approved for a $2.5 billion loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.
The Indiana Economic Development Corp. last week said the agency will be working with Ultium through the process, but declined to give any details on potential state incentives.
During the public hearing portion of the council meeting, some residents expressed initial support but some concern for the project. Many felt the average wage figure might be misleading, but they also were concerned about potential pollution to the nearby aquifer from which New Carlisle draws its drinking water.
Gallagher said he understood such concerns and expressed the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
“Specifically, when it comes to manufacturing, all of our products remain inside our four walls of the plant. So, we don’t store any material outside of the building. There is no handling or processing of the materials outside of the building,” he said. “Any materials or byproducts that we produce in our process are recycled or reused.”
He added the facility will have zero emissions.