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Report: Kia targeting Mega Site for EV plant
Possible Bryan County factory would create 8,500 jobs
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Gov. Brian Kemp is shown in June 2021 speaking to officials and businesspeople from a four-county area inside the undeveloped Bryan County Mega Site. Listening at right is Anna Chafin, CEO of the Development Authority of Bryan County. - photo by AL HACKLE/Staff

The parent company of Kia Motors is in talks to build a second automobile factory in Georgia with plans to hire 8,500, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The newspaper reported Monday that South Korea-based Hyundai Motor Group is negotiating for a site along I-16 in Bryan County, known as the Mega Site, for a factory that would manufacture electric vehicles, according to those familiar with the deal, who were not authorized to comment.

“We are excited to announce a new EV plant plan in the United States soon, but we do not have details to share at this stage,” Hyundai Motor Group said in a statement first reported by Reuters. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office and other state officials declined to comment on the report to the AJC.

About 30 miles from Statesboro, the Mega Site is a flat, sandy tract currently studded with clumps of palmettos and stands of small pines trees.
A new Hyundai Motor plant would follow the recruitment of electric vehicle maker Rivian, which announced in December it would build a $5 billion factory an hour east of Atlanta.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Kia Motors is in talks to build a plant to manufacture electric vehicles on the Mega Site, shown above in the shaded area, in Bryan County.

Aspen Aerogels announced in February it would invest $325 million to build a factory in Bulloch 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.

Kia announced its first U.S. plant in West Point in 2006. Now combined with Rivian, Georgia could boast a pair of electric vehicle auto projects within six months, bringing with them combined promises of thousands of manufacturing jobs and spinoffs from suppliers. The deals, respectively, would rank as the two largest ever recruited by the state, according to the AJC report.

States recruit auto factories because they bring billions in investment, thousands of middle-class jobs, and the likelihood of spinoff jobs from a network of suppliers. Kia already has a web of suppliers in Georgia that support its existing factory in West Point, where it builds gas-powered Sorento and Telluride SUVs and K5 sedans.

The 2,284-acre Mega Site under negotiation for the new plant is near Ellabell off Exit 143 on I-16. It has been pitched to several automakers, including Rivian, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover.

Rivian instead chose a site between the towns of Social Circle and Rutledge. But the Bryan County site has been seen as a tempting property for an EV factory or other industrial users.

The state of Georgia paid $61 million to purchase the undeveloped property last July.

During Kemp’s visit to the Mega Site in June 2021, Benjy Thompson, CEO of the Development Authority of Bulloch County, said that the Mega Site could benefit Bulloch by landing a manufacturer large enough that it would require spinoff industries for supplies.

“With what we have we obviously couldn’t site a major industry of that magnitude. It’s really more of a regional concept,” said Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch. “Now, I think the benefit could be if the state, JDA or whoever were able to land that big fish, that would put us and arguably surrounding counties in a very good  position to get suppliers, which would ultimately create some jobs and capital investment.”

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