GM battery plant still on the table as county officials vote on tax incentives

NOW: GM battery plant still on the table as county officials vote on tax incentives

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.-- Once again, tax incentives were presented to county officials for approval for an electric battery plant in the Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC).

The Ultium Cells project stalled as the joint venture between General Motors (GM) and LG broke up.

Now, the project is back up and running, but this time, as a joint venture between GM and Samsung.

“It’s really one of these heartland of America type things,” said Bill Schalliol, Economic Development Director for St. Joseph County. “We actually feel that we’re in a much better place than we were a year ago.”

So what’s changing?

General Motors still spearheads the project, but this time, the joint venture includes Samsung.

“The new partnership with Samsung is a lot stronger partnership based on the way things are today, so we’re really comfortable that things will move forward,” Schalliol said.

GM is also investing more into the project - $1 billion more - for a larger facility, with one million extra square miles, that can make two different kinds of batteries instead of one.

“There would be an infrastructure fee that GM would pay of $4.5 million a year,” said County Commissioner Carl Baxmeyer, “and that will enable us to pay on the bonds and add no cost to the taxpayers.”

Cylindrical and prismatic batteries will both come out of the plant, and a GM rep says this gives the company more flexibility when it comes to designing vehicles.

“It positions them better to compete in the electric vehicle industry,” Baxmeyer said.

But staying the same are the complaints from neighbors who are worried about the hundreds of new employees and effects on farmland and the Kankakee Aquifer.

"I'm tired of the land grab in New Carlisle, and I'm tired of it not being American companies,” said New Carlisle resident and businessowner, Sharon Petersen. "This town does a good job of keeping it tight, but there's certain things that are beyond our control. And when the county gets involved, when it's just in their best interest and not ours, that's when I start getting angry."

However, the taxpayer burden will not change, and will cover nearly $330 million over 25 years.

“We really feel we’re in a good spot, and Indiana really has a good business climate for these kinds of projects, so we’re excited about where we are today,” Schalliol said.

The motion, approving a 10-year tax abatement for General Motors, LLC, passed unanimously Tuesday morning from the Redevelopment Commission, then again unanimously from the Board of County Commissioners.

Now it must get a final vote from the county council.

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