Gov. Brian Kemp’s confirmation Friday that Hyundai Motor Group will build an electric vehicle manufacturing facility at the Mega Site in Bryan County is expected to create more than 8,000 jobs and bring significant growth to southern Bulloch County and the surrounding area.
Speaking at the Mega Site location near Ellabell off Interstate-16 Exit 143, Kemp and Hyundai officials said the automaker would invest $5.54 billion to open the company’s first manufacturing facility dedicated solely to electric vehicles and the batteries needed to power the vehicles. Suppliers not affiliated directly with Hyundai will invest an additional $1 billion in the project, Kemp said.
“We are proud to welcome Hyundai Motor Group to Georgia as we forge an innovative future together," Kemp said Friday. “From initial conversations on my economic development mission to Korea to Georgia’s investment in the Bryan County Mega Site, we've been preparing for an opportunity like this for a long time. We will continue working to make Georgia the premier destination for quality companies who are creating the jobs of today, tomorrow and beyond.”
The governor described the deal as the largest economic development project in the state’s history.
Hyundai plans to begin site preparation this summer, with actual construction to begin in January 2023 and full production to start in the first half of 2025, according to a release from the governor’s office. The plant will have the capacity to produce as many as 300,000 new vehicles per year.
“(Bulloch County) stands to benefit not just from the large plant on the Mega Site, but from the activity generated by the plant outside of the Mega Site,” said Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County. “And that will not just be direct job and capital investment opportunities for suppliers, but it will be the indirect economic impact of more people moving to the area, more activity in the area that’s not directly tied to the mother plant in Bryan County.”
Joint Development Authority
Bulloch County is part of the four-county Savannah Harbor Interstate-16 Corridor Joint Development Authority that was created in 2014 in an attempt to attract Volvo to build a manufacturing plant at the Mega Site. Bulloch, Bryan County, Chatham County and Effingham County make up the Joint Development Authority.
“The four counties have been partners in this joint development,” Thompson said. “While Volvo did not locate at the Mega Site, the four counties continued to market the Mega Site itself … knowing that a project of the size announced Friday would provide a huge and critical economic development opportunity, not just at the site itself, but for the entire region.”
In selecting Georgia, the governor’s office said Hyundai Motor Group chose the Mega Site as developed by the state and the Joint Development Authority because it offers the needed speed-to-market requirements that reduce barriers to efficient operations. Also, industrial utilities are adjacent to the site, and extensive due diligence reports have been completed.
“I think it’s fair to say part of the reason why Hyundai chose the Bryan County Mega Site and the Savannah region is because of the way the four counties and the jurisdictions we work with and how well we worked together,” Thompson said. “They saw the way we worked together to promote the site, to provide information and to be responsive to the needs that they have. It was critical for us to have that kind of cooperation to help make this happen.”
With the Mega Site only about five miles from the Bulloch County line, local officials believe the southern Bulloch area will see significant population growth by the time the plant opens in 2025.
County Manager Tom Couch said US Census projections showed the Nevils-Stilson area growing by as many as 4,000 people by 2030 prior to the Hyundai plant announcement.
“We think the growth will occur in the Southeast Bulloch area, primarily Brooklet to the south toward the Bryan County line,” Couch said. “Bulloch County will be an attractive option for workforce housing and spin-off business growth as the Savannah Metro area continues to saturate.
“I think that we will have accelerated population growth in this area of Bulloch County. We have to be prepared and we have initiated studies on future land use and infrastructure.
“Our biggest challenges will be managing growth, infrastructure and balancing the tax base with new business and industry so our cost of services don’t go upside down. I’m not prepared to say we will have Pooler or Richmond Hill growth, yet, but the impact will be visible and felt by mid-decade.”
Thompson said managing the potential growth brought by the plant and its supporting businesses is something the Joint Development Authority has discussed all along.
“The Authority itself has a Board of Directors made up of eight people, two from each of the four counties and every county commission chairman is a member of that board, including Roy Thompson from Bulloch County,” he said. “These are county folks involved throughout this process since Volvo and particularly here with Hyundai.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves for the planning and we’ve had the conversations for quite some time. We have talked about the growth and we know it’s coming. It will be a great thing for the citizens of our region and our counties. Bring it on. We’re going to do the best we can to meet those challenges and I’m confident we will.”
Focus on EV’s in Georgia
The new Hyundai Motor plant follows the recruitment of electric vehicle maker Rivian, which announced in December it would build a $5 billion factory an hour east of Atlanta that's expected to employ about 7,500 workers. Also, SK Innovation is investing $2.6 billion to build two plants in Jackson County, northeast of Atlanta, to make batteries for electric vehicles and will employ more than 2,600 workers.
In Bulloch County, Aspen Aerogels announced in February it would invest $325 million to build a factory in the county’s Southern Gateway Commerce Park on I-16 to manufacture an aerogel thermal insulating material that helps prevent lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles from overheating and catching fire.
Aspen expects to have the plant in operation by late 2023, and is banking on rapid growth in demand for electric vehicles and their batteries. In fact, the company’s CEO Don Young told the Statesboro Herald in March that the 250 jobs that will result from the $325 million investment are only the first phase of Aspen’s plans for the site.
Though EVs make up about 3% of U.S. auto sales, that is expected to grow exponentially as fuel and emissions standards tighten and costs to build EVs drop.
“Today’s announcement of Hyundai Motor Group’s first fully dedicated EV manufacturing facility solidifies our spot at the vanguard of the EV transition,” said Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson. “We could not be more excited to welcome the Hyundai Group to Georgia and to celebrate this incredible investment. This state-of-the-art facility will create exciting new possibilities for all Georgians and transform an entire region.”
The announcement comes five days before Kemp faces a contested Republican primary election against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue on Tuesday.
The incumbent leads in polls in his effort to hold off a challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and others in the GOP primary. Perdue has repeatedly attacked the Rivian deal, in which Georgia and local governments have pledged $1.5 billion of incentives and tax breaks, saying the state is transferring money to liberal financiers and should have consulted with local residents who oppose the plant because it threatens their rural quality of life.