Atlanta Business Chronicle: Op-Ed: A Sustainable Georgia Future

By Pat Wilson, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Economic Development 
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle 
May 6, 2022

There is no better way to ensure the long-term success, wellbeing and overall prosperity of our communities than to provide well-paying jobs and investments to Georgians in every corner of the state.  

Our mission at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) is to do just that – secure investments that will lift up all Georgians, including rural and other underrepresented communities.   

In Georgia, we’ve become adept at harnessing yesterday’s successes to develop tomorrow’s future. That’s why we’ve focused on the global transition to electric vehicles (EV). Right now, approximately 55,000 Georgia jobs are tied directly to the automotive industry, many of them in the supply chain for the internal combustion engine.  

As major automotive companies phase out internal combustion engines, it is imperative upon us to support our Georgia companies through the industry’s transition to electric motors and batteries, while also attracting new jobs and investment across the EV supply chain.  

During an early 2020 economic development mission to Germany touring the Porsche Taycan production line, Gov. Kemp honed in on the commitment by Porsche and other automotive original equipment manufacturers to the electric vehicle transition.  As we toured the assembly line, it became clear that if a company that built its reputation on producing premier internal combustion engine vehicles is committing to this transition, then everything we knew about the automotive industry would be shifting, too.  

We took immediate action to ensure the people of our state would have every opportunity to be part of that coming change. We capped the end of 2021 by announcing together that Rivian Automotive will build a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Walton and Morgan counties. 

This project has contributed to putting Georgia in a remarkable position at the forefront of this massive shift in the automotive industry. While creating a record-breaking number of 7,500 direct jobs on top of a $5 billion investment, Rivian’s decision to locate here will result in countless indirect jobs that will support nearby small businesses and suppliers. 

Additionally, Georgia’s Rivian project highlights opportunity in the EV space. Rivian will play a leading role in revolutionary change over the next 10 years, helping attract the entire value chain for electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries just starting to take root in the United States.   

Not only are we thrilled about the jobs and numerous opportunities this project carries for our state, but we are also excited because of Rivian’s corporate ethos of environmental protection and preservation, as well as their history of community involvement and philanthropy.   

In the hundreds of companies I’ve worked with during my 12 years at GDEcD, rarely have I worked with a company as focused on the natural environment and the health of their community as Rivian. 

I personally visited their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Normal, Illinois, where the city has partnered with 4-H, local schools and organizations, and The Nature Conservancy. I talked to the city’s mayor and city manager, and I’m inspired that Georgia has the good fortune of working with this company.  

Growing up in rural Georgia myself, I know firsthand the impact a facility of this magnitude will have on families. Every time we locate a project in our state, I think of the families and future generations who will benefit from its success.  

Kia in West Point, SK Innovation in Commerce and Taurus in Bainbridge are just a few of the projects bringing economic diversification and downtown revitalization, new customers for small businesses, dollars for our education systems and opportunities for Georgians from the youngest ages. 

The goal of every economic development project is ensuring that investments are environmentally and economically sustainable, and Rivian’s investment is the definition of what we seek from companies. Our state’s thriving economy and the new jobs we’re creating across all sectors show that Georgia is operating full speed ahead.  

Investments in our state like those from SK Innovation, Kia Georgia, and Rivian will make a positive difference for generations to come.