While St. Joseph County officials already are working on another king-size project on the western side of the county near New Carlisle, site work already is underway on the $3.5 billion EV battery plant that GM/Samsung SDI is building.
Even with contract talks that were underway with the United Auto Workers, GM/Samsung took possession of the land on Aug. 29 and immediately began grading the portion of the 680-acre parcel where the plant will sit, constructing retention ponds for the development and installing fencing.
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“They’ve been aggressive since they took possession of the site,” said Bill Schalliol, the county’s executive director of economic development. He expects Barton Malow, the general contractor, will begin pouring footers and extending utilities for the project in the first quarter of 2024 and that the site could turn into a beehive of activity as the weather warms up.
“It’s a smaller crew right now,” Schalliol said. “But it’s going to ramp up over the course of the winter and by the summer there’s easily going to be hundreds of people working at the site.”
The EV battery plant, which will sit on 680 acres on what was agricultural land at Larrison Boulevard and Indiana 2, ultimately will consist of 3 million square feet of manufacturing space in two main buildings.
The project is slated for completion in December 2027 and is expected to create 1,700 new jobs. Though GM always indicated it would not oppose unionization of the plant, the automaker recently agreed that all of its EV battery plants will fall under the master contract with the UAW.
“There’s a great deal of excitement to see activity at the site,” said Jeff Rea, president and CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The work that’s going on takes away the doubters that had a hard time that it was even going to happen.”
The county has been talking to GM about the possibility of the battery plant since December 2021. Initially, the automaker planned to partner with LG Energy Solution on the St. Joseph County project like it has on its three other battery plants in Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee.
When that partnership with LG Energy fell through for a fourth Ultium Cells plant, GM ultimately partnered with Samsung SDI for a fourth such plant, necessitating a repeat of the legal processes and public hearings needed for the project to proceed.
Though final completion of the project has been delayed by a couple of years, it’s also grown by about a million square feet and includes more employees than originally anticipated, Schalliol said.
“It’s the largest project investment in St. Joseph County in 75 years,” Rea said, adding that just the plant’s payroll is expected to create an economic impact of $600 million a year. Beyond that, the GM/Samsung project is expected to potentially attract additional suppliers to the region.
The GM/Samsung plant would be the fourth EV battery plant planned or under construction in Indiana, and there’s a possibility for a fifth such factory in the near future, Indiana Secretary of Commerce David Rosenberg said last week in South Bend.
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While the GM/Samsung plant is moving forward, county officials are also working on a more secretive project with a company known as Razor5 LLC that is looking at 840 acres near the GM site, which could have a similar impact as the EV battery plant.
That potential developer already has placed $1 million into escrow as it further investigates the site, Schalliol said, adding that information should become public in the next 90 days if the project moves forward.
“After years of work on the Indiana Enterprise Center, it’s gratifying to see projects coming to fruition and further developers coming to the site,” Schalliol said. “These are jobs that should support families for generations to come.”
Email Tribune staff writer Ed Semmler at email@example.com.