In 2016, Rivian was a little-known tech company when its founder visited Normal, Illinois to look at purchasing equipment from a shuttered Mitsubishi factory. Rather than simply purchasing the equipment, he noticed the promise of Normal and the company ended up taking over the entire plant, continuing to expand, and receiving backing from investors including Amazon, Ford and Cox Automotive. Rivian’s first electric truck rolled off its only assembly line in Normal in September of 2021, and the company went public in November. Its R1T is said to define what modern pickup truck can be and was honored with Motor Trend’s prestigious 2022 Truck of the Year. By choosing to manufacture its electric trucks in Normal, Rivian has had a tremendous impact on the community and the state. It is currently one of McClean County’s largest employers, responsible for 3,700 jobs.
Rivian is one piece of the growing EV industry’s presence in Illinois and testament to the importance of the State’s efforts to advance the industry. In October, 2021 Illinois passed the Reimagining Electric Vehicles Act (REV) into law, providing significant incentives that make Illinois a premier location for EV related companies looking to grow. These include:
- Income tax withholding equal to 75% for new employees (100% in underserved or energy transition areas)
- Credits for education and vocational training
- Tax exemptions for building materials and utilities
- Capital expenditure credits for EV and battery facilities
Additionally, just before that, in September of 2021, Governor JB Pritzker signed the historic Climate and Equitable Jobs Act into law, putting Illinois on the path to 100% clean energy. The act encourages the industry and its suppliers to invest throughout the state and advances the State’s goal of becoming a top global destination for EV manufacturing.
James Chen, vice president for public policy at Rivian, noted the importance of creating a business-friendly atmosphere in order to attract a robust supply chain for the EV industry. “This will lead to a greater investment in the state, increased jobs and the growth of Illinois’ industrial base in electric vehicle technology, supporting Illinois’ goal of becoming the Silicon Valley of electric vehicles,” Chen said.
The growing EV ecosystem, along with the state’s central location, access to talent and commitment to a sustainable future are all reasons Lion Electric, a Canadian manufacturer of electric busses, recently chose Joliet, Illinois for its first U.S. manufacturing facility.
“Lion is the leader in electric school buses and has always been dedicated to the U.S. market, and our commitment to be close to our customers is one of the core values we have as a company. This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and Founder of Lion.
Lion invested $70M in the largest all-electric commercial vehicle production plant in the U.S., where it will employ more than 700 people. The new facility will represent the largest dedicated production site for zero-emission medium and heavy-duty vehicles in the U.S. and Lion’s biggest footprint in the market. The Illinois plant will give the company the ability to meet the increasing demand in the marketplace for “Made in America” zero-emission vehicles, while simultaneously bringing production closer to its customers.
One way the State is strengthening its position as a premier location for the EV industry is by building the workforce of the future through initiatives such as Manufacturing Training Academies. The program awarded $7.5 million to Normal’s Heartland Community College to train electric vehicle technicians for skilled Rivian positions. Programs like this are being developed throughout the state. In another example, Illinois State University (also located in Normal), is planning to invest $44 million to launch an engineering school which will provide Rivian and its suppliers with the needed labor force.
In nearby Champaign, Illinois, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign houses one of the world’s top engineering schools. In 2020, the U of I System’s computer science, computer engineering and data science programs graduated more than 3,400 students.
Illinois is centrally located in the middle of one of the most connected rail networks in the world. It is also within a four-hour flight to nearly every North American destination and is home to the third-largest interstate system in the U.S., as well as 19 port districts and 1,000 miles of navigable waterways. This means unmatched access for EV suppliers and customers and is key to the industry flourishing in the state.
The common theme that rings throughout each story—from manufacturers and suppliers in the EV industry alike—is that Illinois has the skilled workforce and is committed to building the green economy. The state’s central location and unmatched infrastructure provide easy access to the world via air, rail, road and water. And, Illinois is a business-friendly state that is prepared to meet the demands of the businesses of tomorrow. As companies invest in transforming the way they make vehicles based on a sustainable future, Illinois is ready to support them.
For more information on available sites and growing your business in Illinois, visit intersectillinois.org.