Exuberant Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp might be excused for his hyperbole about Rivian's massive electric truck factory coming to a rural outpost east of Atlanta.
Kemp called the $5 billion Rivian plant "the largest single economic development project in the state's history."
Georgians hearing the news might ask "what's Rivian?" and wonder why the startup company's plant will be bigger than the Atlanta Airport, the Savannah Port, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, and so on.
The governor's jubilation at the Georgia State Capitol festivities is not misplaced: Rivian said the plant will employ 7,500 workers and turn out up to 400,000 vehicles a year. The state gave economic incentives estimated at around $400 million to attract the Irvine, Calif.-based company, which also reportedly considered a site near Fort Worth, Texas.
Rivan raised nearly $12 billion in its initial public offering last month and is valued at $90 billion, more than Ford and General Motors.
Begun in 2009, the electric vehicle company has orders for 71,000 of its electric vehicles.
On the negative side, it's falling behind production at its initial plant in Bloomington-Normal, Ill., where fewer than 3,000 vehicles will be made this year, and lost $2.2 billion for the year through September.
As Neil Sedaka would say, ramping up is hard to do.
Founded by CEO R.J. Scaringe, Rivian is vying to take a major share of the transformation to electric vehicles, despite intense competition from Tesla, GM, Ford and Japanese and European automakers. The company has attracted an impressive lineup of investors, such as Cox Enterprises, Ford and Amazon, which has ordered a fleet of vans from the company.
Operations will begin in 2024 at the nearly 2,000-acre site between the small communities of Social Circle and Rutledge, which haven't experienced such a disruption since Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's army came through. Work beginning in 2022 will bring an end to the rural way of life treasured by longtime residents.
Global operations upon which Rivian's ambitions depend will also bring severe environmental costs. As electric vehicle manufacturing increases, the need for essential materials will rise, causing devastation from lithium mining in Bolivia and cobalt mining in Africa's Congo, according to recent investigative articles in The New York Times.
Rivian has received glowing reviews for the small number of trucks produced so far. But Rivian will be challenged to garner a major slice of the market from Ford's new electric F-150, GM pickups and vehicles from Toyota and Tesla.
While Kemp's Republican Party denies climate change, his deal with Rivian marks Georgia's second major investment in electric vehicles, considered essential in reducing carbon emissions. SK Battery is completing an electric battery factory in Commerce, Ga., for which the company received massive state incentives, although apparently less than Rivian's.
Kemp, who will make the factory announcement a main component of his re-election effort, has linked Georgia's future to Rivian's. Perhaps one day the electric truck company will define the Peach State as much as Coca-Cola.