Monday, June 17, 2024

Partnership of major automakers to bring global HQ, 203 high-paying jobs to Durham

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A group of automakers focused on electric vehicle charging stations has chosen Durham for its new global headquarters — a $10.1 million investment that is expected to create 203 high-paying jobs, state economic development officials said Tuesday.

Commerce officials on Tuesday approved a jobs grant worth up to $4.1 million for the project planned by Ionna LLC, a partnership between automakers BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis.

The company chose North Carolina over a site in Texas, officials said. Durham County also approved about $170,000 in incentives, commerce officials said Tuesday during a meeting of the department’s Economic Investment Committee.

The company plans to create the jobs between 2025 and 2029. The positions would pay an annual average salary of $128,457, officials said. That’s 41.6% above the average annual private-sector wage in the county, according to Commerce Department data.

Ionna was created to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles in North America by making charging more convenient, accessible and reliable. The goal is to help remove one of the biggest barriers to EV adoption: a lack of reliable places to charge the vehicles. If more charging stations are available, the company’s thinking goes, more people might consider buying an EV.

Ionna intends to develop a new high-power charging network with at least 30,000 chargers to make zero-emission driving more attractive to customers, commerce officials said. The charging stations would be accessible to all battery-powered electric vehicles from any automaker.

An Ionna spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Seth Cutler, Ionna’s chief executive, said in a statement: “Our new headquarters will bring synergistic opportunities and collaboration, accelerating deployment and innovation within Ionna while contributing positively to the Durham and Triangle area community, paving the way for a prosperous future together.”

Clean energy cluster

It’s the latest clean-energy win for state economic developers, who have focused on luring such companies to North Carolina. And it’s the latest to focus on electric vehicles — a cluster that has exploded in the state in recent years.

In October, Toyota announced it would more than double the size of a massive electric vehicle battery factory in Randolph County. The company’s $14 billion factory, which is between Greensboro and Pittsboro, is expected to eventually employ more than 5,000 people — an investment that has spurred residual growth of contractors and services in the area.

For instance, Fujihatsu & Toyotsu Battery Components, a partnership between Fujihatsu Tech America and Toyota Tsusho America, said in February it would create 133 new jobs in a new electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in Liberty. FTBC is investing $60 million in the project, which will support Toyota’s battery manufacturing unit.

“These companies know that a robust infrastructure for charging is the future of EVs,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday at an event in Durham. “North Carolina knows that, too. And we’re glad they’re here to work with us. It’s through innovation and collaboration, that we’re becoming the number one state for renewable energy in the country.”

Since 2017, the state has announced at least 19,000 jobs focused on energy efficiency or producing products that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Those jobs have been tied to projects that have brought more than $22.6 billion in capital investment to the state, according to commerce officials.

In April, Boviet Solar, which makes solar panels and photovoltaic cells for residential and commercial customers, said it plans to build its first North American plant in Greenville. The project is expected to create 908 jobs in the Pitt County city as part of a $294 million expansion.

Meanwhile, an unidentified international maker of solar components is considering a site in Cumberland County for a facility that would create 815 jobs as part of a $159 million investment south of Fayetteville.

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