With last month’s announcement that Vietnamese electric vehicle (EV) manufacture VinFast will be building its first North American production facility in Chatham County, it is nearly impossible to think about the impact that the $2 billion Phase I investment and 7,500 new jobs will have on Lee County and the surrounding region.
This announcement, coupled with Toyota’s recently announced new EV battery manufacturing facility in Randolph County, will lead to profound opportunities, and challenges, for our region. From energy and labor to new housing projects and a growing service industry, Lee County is in a unique position to leverage these announcements for future growth.While it is still common to hear neighbors and friends scoff at the idea that the EV market will ever supplant the internal combustion engine vehicle market, the only approach our community can take is to embrace this change. According to a recent Bloomberg New Energy Finance study, “by 2025 electric vehicles will reach 10% of global passenger vehicle sales, growing to 28% in 2030 and 58% by 2040.” For those of you in the market for a new car, has purchasing an EV crossed your mind? My money is on that it has.Both locally and globally, the EV industry will have a transformative impact on our economy. According to Area Development Magazine (Q1/2022), “Between 2020 and 2026, the size of the global electric vehicle market is expected to increase over four-fold to reach an estimated global market size of some US$725 billion.” Consider VinFast’s announcement of at least $2 billion just down the road; based on this projection it is entirely conceivable that one to two additional EV facilities at that scale will land in North Carolina, and the Triangle region itself, to meet this increasing demand.North Carolina finds itself in a position of strength in the EV market for a variety of reasons, including available greenfield sites at the scale needed for EV production, a diverse and growing labor force, and leadership that supports this vibrant industry through a variety of resources, including financial incentives. Most uniquely, North Carolina is creating the ecosystem needed to support the EV industry. This ecosystem relies on a supply chain that includes EV production facilities, lithium recycling facilities, battery cell production facilities, and raw materials processing. From the lithium deposits in the Carolina Tin-Spodumene Belt to Toyota’s new EV battery facility, North Carolina EV industry is just taking off. As the EV market grows so will Lee County’s opportunities for diverse economic vitality.
John Dean is Economic Development Manager for the Sanford Area Growth Alliance.