Jackson County plant plans to hire thousands after multibillion dollar state investment

JACKSON COUNTY, Ga. — State leaders are betting big on a South Korean electric vehicle battery company. Georgia invested $2.6 billion to convince the company to build their batteries in Jackson County. It’s the largest single foreign investment in state history.

Governor Brian Kemp said the payout was worth it to compete with China for green energy manufacturing jobs.

“Commerce has always been a town that people travel to for work,” said Commerce mayor Clark Hill. Hill said the city of six thousand was a job destination for mill workers in the 1980s. He said SK Battery building two electric vehicle battery plants will create new economic opportunities. “When you start looking at jobs where entry level positions on the low end are in the $18 range it has such a potential to be life changing for our community.”

SK plans to hire more than six thousand workers to build batteries for 330,000 electric cars annually by 2025, including batteries for the highly anticipated Ford F-150 Lightning.

Plant worker Jessie Johnson told Channel 2 anchor Justin Farmer she left her lab tech job at a medical company to come to SKB. She said great benefits and pay are a win for her and her two teen children, but she’s also passionate about being a green energy pioneer.

“It gives people a fair chance at better paying jobs, training to where the people here are so friendly and so patient. And, you know it’s a lot of one on one, and it’s a lot of hands on,” Johnson.

Tom Seawright, a supervisor on the F-150 battery assembly line, told Farmer he encourages young folks to consider careers in engineering and manufacturing so they can be a part of the next phase of U.S. auto making.

“It’s huge. I mean we’re all, we’ve been included in the forefront of something that we know is here to stay,” Seawright said. “I’ll be 51 in September. I want to retire from here so I think then there’s a huge opportunity for that.”

Commerce’s proximity to Georgia’s ports, Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and I-85 make it an attractive manufacturing location. Governor Brian Kemp told Farmer he didn’t hesitate to sweeten the pot by working with Jackson County leaders to offer up $2.6 billion in incentives to SKB, including tax breaks and job training.

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“This is Georgia, American based jobs,” Kemp said. “It’s green energy and if you don’t do this the whole market is going to be beholden to China so it was very important for us to fight for that project and thankfully, we were successful.”

Mayor Hill said the investment is already paying off. Other businesses in the region are raising their wages to compete with SKB. Plant worker Jessie Johnson said the real payoff will be when she sees a Ford F-150 Lightning in traffic.

“When I make a battery when I make a sale,” Johnson said. “It’s a part of me and that sale that I’m actually making, to go out to the customers. So, they have a little bit of me.”