LIBERTY, N.C. (WGHP) – The $338 million for the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite the North Carolina General Assembly this week approved in its new budget could pay off soon with a new Toyota manufacturing facility.
Bloomberg News reported on Friday that Toyota will invest billions in a facility to build batteries for electric vehicles.
Bloomberg, citing “people familiar with the matter,” said Toyota hasn’t made its final decisions – the company had promised to announce its plans by the end of the year. Sources said that “it is expected to partner with Panasonic Corp. at the facility.”
The report cited “some of the people, who declined to be named as the discussions are private.”
The article said there has been no formal commitment and that the plan could change.
As reported Thursday, the budget bill signed by Gov. Roy Cooper approved the funding for site improvements for the 1,800-plus acres of Randolph County, just south of the Guilford County border, near Liberty, where Toyota in 2018 very nearly placed its plant with Mazda that instead wound up in Alabama.
Toyota on Oct. 18 announced plans to invest $3.4 billion in the U.S. through 2030, including a plan to spend $1.3 billion for a battery plant that would employ 1,750. Some industry observers had suggested Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and – yes, again – Alabama were frontrunners.
But the North Carolina budget line curiously placed its requirements for spending the $338 million with securing a company that would invest at least $1 billion and create at least 1,750 jobs.
The appropriation specifies some $135 million this fiscal year for site development, $100 million to mitigate wetlands and $35 million for roadwork and more wetlands. There is $185 million to reimburse the manufacturer for costs of further site work, roadwork and wetlands mitigation as needed.
Toyota Motor North America’s previous announcement indicated a partnership with Toyota Tsusho, with a plan to begin production in 2025, starting with batteries for hybrid electric vehicles. Bloomberg reported that Toyota (51%) and Panasonic (49%) are partners in Prime Planet, a Japan-based battery manufacturer that began operations last year.
Lawmakers contacted by WGHP would not address specifically the potential arrangement with Toyota, and economic development representatives typically don’t speak about deals until they are done.
“While we talk to many companies about their site location strategies and the advantages of doing business in North Carolina, we don’t discuss those conversations until such time as the company makes a public announcement of their site decision,” David Rhoades, communications director for the NC Department of Commerce, wrote in an email to WGHP before Bloomberg’s report broke. “Regarding the proposed state appropriation for the megasite, our department frequently communicates with leaders in the General Assembly to ensure North Carolina stays competitive and in the best position to attract future economic investment opportunities. We will continue to work with state leaders so North Carolina can remain the best place to do business in the nation.”
State Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford County), the House majority whip, discussed the state’s aggressive approach to luring new industry, although he didn’t mention Toyota.
State Sen. Amy Galey (R-Alamance) said in an email that she declined to comment, and state Sen. David Craven (R-Randolph), who represents the area in which the megasite is located, did not respond to questions sent to him via email.