Toyota chooses megasite for new plant

·4 min read

Dec. 7—RANDOLPH COUNTY — Toyota Motor Corp. will spend $1.29 billion building its first U.S. electric car battery manufacturing plant at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, the largest-single private investment for a project in state history.

The company will create at least 1,750 jobs as North Carolina finally secures a major automotive project after decades of frustration competing against other states. Eventually the operation could grow to 3,875 jobs and $3 billion of investment.

The project will fulfill the vision of megasite proponents who launched their effort 11 years ago.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Toyota's decision Monday before several hundred cheering people during a ceremony at the plant site in northeastern Randolph County near the Guilford County line.

"It's tremendous that Toyota has selected North Carolina for such an important part of its electric vehicle future, creating good paying jobs and moving us toward a healthier environment," Cooper said.

Reflecting the magnitude of the project, the second-term Democratic governor was joined on stage by the two leading Republicans in the N.C. General Assembly, state Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger Sr., R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland.

Battery production would begin in the middle of this decade, said Christopher Reynolds, chief administrative officer of Toyota Motor North America.

Salaries at the Toyota plant will average $62,000 a year in a county where the average annual wage is just below $38,000, the governor's office reports.

Toyota will receive a lucrative economic incentives package. The governor's office announced that Toyota will be eligible for a Transitional Job Development Investment Grant of up to $79 million during a 20-year period if benchmarks are met. The grant could expand to an estimated $315 million over as many as 39 years.

The Toyota project could grow the state's economy by at least $9.5 billion over 20 years, increasing to nearly $35 billion over the course of nearly four decades, the governor's office reports.

Another incentives package for the project is $388 million in the state budget for site and road improvements and other purposes. It was put through as an amendment to the $25.9 billion state budget.

On Monday morning the Randolph County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved its incentives package. During a 20-year period, Randolph County will pay the company incentives equal to 60% of its annual property taxes if it meets the first phase development goals of creating 1,750 jobs and making a $1 billion private investment. The incentives would increase to 70% of the company's annual property taxes if it meets the second phase goal, 3,875 jobs and $3 billion in investment.

In addition to the tax-based incentives, Randolph County intends to transfer ownership of all or a portion of the properties currently owned by the county and the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation to the company. The total size of the transferred properties are 626 acres, with an assessed value of $21.8 million.

The city of Greensboro, which provides water and sewer service to the megasite, will give financial consideration for the development as well.

Toyota officials say they are committed to electric cars as a foundation of the company's future. Electric vehicles account for nearly 25% of Toyota's sales volume, and the company estimates that will increase to 70% by 2030. The megasite plant will initially produce batteries for Toyota's hybrid electric vehicles.

The new company will be known as Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina.

Toyota considered the megasite four years ago for a joint car manufacturing plant with Mazda before picking a site in Alabama.

Reynolds told the crowd at Monday's event that company officials said they were impressed with the megasite four years ago and kept it in mind for expansion.

Randolph County Board of Commissioners Chairman Darrell Frye said he never lost faith in the potential of the megasite. Frye, a longtime Randolph County commissioner, was among the initial county leaders who brainstormed the idea of setting aside about 1,900 acres for a major manufacturer.

"This has gone from possibilities to likelihood to reality," Frye said to the crowd as the first speaker at the celebration.

pjohnson@hpenews.com — 336-888-3528 — @HPEpaul

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