John Morehouse argues that the US state is perfectly positioned to be the epicentre of electric vehicle manufacturing
According to an Alliance for Automotive Innovation report, automakers are planning to invest US$250bn in electrification by 2023, and IHS Markit predicts there will be 130 electric vehicle (EV) models available in the US by 2026. An established automotive manufacturing hub since 1909, Georgia is perfectly positioned to be the epicentre of EV manufacturing.
The state already has a strong ecosystem of close to 11,000 manufacturing establishments, nearly 400,000 employees, and a wealth of resources in in academia, government, and nonprofit organisations that support its continuous growth. According to a 2021 report from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, Georgia manufacturers created a total output of US$63.9bn, which is close to 10% of the Gross State Product. Transportation equipment manufacturing, which includes vehicle and vehicle parts manufacturing, is Georgia’s second-largest manufacturing subsector in terms of employment, and it has held this rank for nearly two decades, according to the state’s labour department.
New-to-market and established companies are attracted by the proximity of Georgia Tech, which has been studying how to position Georgia for expansion in the EV sector
As the auto industry began its shift toward EVs in the mid-2010s, parts and vehicle manufacturers began to home in on Georgia as a place to expand and grow. In 2017, SK Innovation (now SK On) announced that it would set up its nearly US$2.6bn EV battery manufacturing facilities in Jackson County. Since that time, Georgia has continued to attract international EV-related investments, including Turkish EV-parts manufacturer TEKLAS, German-owned lightweight automotive-body parts manufacturer GEDIA, and South Korean SK-supplier EnChem. Plug Power is building a manufacturing facility for fuel cell systems for e-mobility in Camden County.
Georgia has several attributes that make it an ideal location for EV manufacturing companies: an established automotive manufacturing supply chain, proximity to other auto manufacturers in the South, logistics infrastructure that supports unparalleled access to US and global suppliers, along with customers, affordability, and a pro-business, collaborative environment. In addition, with its innovative mindset, the state can provide intangibles that drive speed to market, particularly to the EV and advanced manufacturing space.
For SMEs and large advanced manufacturers with operations already in Georgia, the Center of Innovation, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, offers concierge, complimentary services to help businesses grow and succeed. A dedicated team focused on Advanced Manufacturing is available to assist businesses in analysing their manufacturing processes and products to identify potential improvements and connect companies to problem-solvers who can offer solutions. The Center’s team of specialists stay current on the latest tools, resources, and concepts that can guide Georgia manufacturers through transformations that foster better products, improve efficiency, and enhance their ability to compete in today’s economy.
The Center has facilitated partnerships between companies and researchers at the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute to develop new materials and ensure that nanomaterial manufacturing processes meet EPA requirements. A Center-supported project between a rural manufacturer and the University of Georgia proved that a byproduct from a manufacturing process could be converted into a prebiotic product that improves the health of broilers. Another project with Georgia Southern University’s Manufacturing Engineering programme is designed to help a small company automate collection of pine sap resin. From helping companies to develop new materials and manufacturing methods to removing waste from existing processes, the Center helps manufacturers add value to their products and reduce costs.
Workforce is a critical component of any manufacturer’s winning formula. The University of Georgia and Georgia Tech both rank in the top 15 of best public schools in the nation, while Georgia Tech’s undergraduate engineering programme ranks #4, and its Industrial / Systems manufacturing engineering program ranks #1. Quick Start, another key resource in the state, is the #1 ranked workforce training programme in the nation and can train workers on the specific skillsets or machine operation requirements of investing companies. Quick Start is free of charge and will establish customised training programmes for incoming companies. Once manufacturers set up shop in the state, the Technical College System of Georgia offers a continuous pipeline of workers through its 22 regional colleges, 600+ certificate, diploma and two-year associate degree programmes, with several based in industrial and manufacturing technologies.
Major OEMs that recently unveiled plans to invest in Georgia include Hyundai Motor Group and Rivian. Hyundai Motor Group announced on 20 May plans to build a new EV and battery manufacturing facility in the State of Georgia. The project represents a capital investment of US$5.545bn by Hyundai Motor Group and US$1bn from non-affiliated suppliers. Built on a 2,967-acre site along I-16, just 28 miles inland from Savannah in Bryan County, the project is expected to create 8,100 direct new jobs. Rivian’s US$5bn planned investment in a brand-new campus and manufacturing facility, where it will produce 400,000 EVs a year, has been further backed by a new electric vehicle service centre in Atlanta’s Upper Westside where the company will hire dozens more local workers.
New-to-market and established companies are attracted by the proximity of Georgia Tech, which has been studying how to position Georgia for expansion in the EV sector, and investigating important new technologies that can help EV manufacturers develop the next generation of EV technologies, such as the Strategic Energy Institute, Center for Innovative Fuel Cell and Battery Technologies, and the Institute for Electronics and Nanotechnology (IEN). Atlanta has also been ranked the #6 top city in North America corporate innovation and R&D, with over 40 corporate innovation centres located within in the metro area.
Through the Center’s interactions with individual manufacturers and the manufacturing ecosystem, it also has the unique ability to identify and support strategic programmes designed to grow Georgia’s manufacturing industry. For example, the Center of Innovation recently joined several entities across the state to support Georgia Tech’s effort to secure a phase one grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBRC) to establish an AI manufacturing corridor in Georgia. The programme’s goal is to support manufacturers in the state in implementing AI technologies to improve competitiveness. Additional organisations that have joined the initiative include Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, Spelman College, the Technical College System of Georgia, and several others.
About the author: John Morehouse is Director of Manufacturing at the Georgia Center of Innovation