Huge Georgia Rivian project threatened by judge’s ruling

A Morgan County is denying the electric automaker $1.5 billion in bonds
Published: Sep. 30, 2022 at 12:11 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 30, 2022 at 4:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - One of Georgia’s biggest economic development projects in history could be at risk, thanks to a Thursday ruling by a Morgan County judge.

Ocmulgee Superior Courts Chief Judge Brenda Holbert Trammell ruled the local development authority trying to lure a Rivian electric vehicle automotive plant to Morgan County has failed to establish the bonds at the center of the project are reasonable.

Those bonds are part of the $1.5 billion incentive package offered to the company.

Trammell’s ruling is likely to be appealed.

In exchange for those bonds, Rivian is promising to bring more than 7,000 jobs to the area as part of the $5 billion plant.

The Irvine, California-based electric vehicle manufacturer announced last year it would build the facility on a 2,000-acre site in Morgan and Walton counties about 45 miles east of Atlanta along Interstate 20.

It plans to produce up to 400,000 vehicles a year there and said it would bring 7,500 new jobs to Georgia.

Thanks to the ruling, that plan is now in jeopardy.

“The court ruled that this project is just not going to be entitled to subsidization from the taxpayers of the the three towns which is what the pilot program was all about,” said attorney, John Christy who represents residents who contested the approval of the bond money.

Christy argued the property tax breaks offered to Rivian take away from important potential benefits for the residents of the community where the plant is located.

“All they have to do is just go ahead and build the plant that they want to with their own money, with their loan from a bank or whatever and pay their taxes, but they wanted to have this pilot program which was a very big subsidy by the taxpayers of these three counties,” said Christy.

JDA and Georgia Department of Economic Development released a joint statement in response to the ruling:

“As the entire country is looking to revitalize and grow domestic manufacturing, protect American jobs, and secure the country’s economic independence, we are disappointed and respectfully disagree with Judge Trammell’s decision. This is a transformational project for the people of this community, the State of Georgia, and the United States of America. We remain undeterred in our efforts to bring high-paying, American manufacturing jobs to Georgia, and are currently assessing all legal options. The Joint Development Authority and the State intend to work with Rivian to move this project forward and see it through to completion.”

Rivian, which also has a plant in Normal, Illinois, said it hoped to break ground this past summer and begin production in 2024.