Company plans half-billion-dollar plant to support EV supply chain in Southeast Tennessee

Contributed photo by Volkswagen / Volkswagen Chattanooga employees work on an ID.4 as production has begun on the electric SUV at the plant.
Contributed photo by Volkswagen / Volkswagen Chattanooga employees work on an ID.4 as production has begun on the electric SUV at the plant.

A company plans to invest more than a half-billion dollars in a new plant in Southeast Tennessee to make a component for the electric vehicle and battery storage markets, officials said Thursday.

North Carolina-based Piedmont Lithium Inc. plans to create 117 jobs at a manufacturing facility in Etowah, Tennessee, where it will produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said in a statement.

The company expects to invest $582 million in the North Etowah Industrial Park in McMinn County, he said.

McMinn County Mayor John Gentry said the figure is the county's largest-ever single investment to his knowledge.

"It's 582 million votes of confidence in the community," he said in a phone interview.

The company plans to purchase more than 200 acres in the industrial park, with construction of the facility to start next year, Gentry said. He said production is slated to begin in 2025.

"They'll be the leading U.S. manufacturer," Gentry said.

The average compensation package for the jobs will be about $94,000, he said.

Stuart McWhorter, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said McMinn County is the ideal location to support Piedmont's growth.

"Centrally located within the southern automotive corridor, Tennessee continues to attract companies in the electric vehicle industry," McWhorter said in a statement.

In July, Volkswagen Chattanooga started production of its all-electric ID.4 SUV, with plans for the first vehicles to be delivered to dealers in October.

The plant is slated to ramp up ID.4 assembly to 7,000 vehicles per month later this year, with the goal to further increase production in 2023, officials said earlier.

Last year, battery materials maker Novonix opened a factory in Chattanooga.

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said at the inauguration of the $160 million Novonix plant on Riverfront Parkway that the factory is helping create "a whole ecosystem" related to the production of electric vehicles and the batteries that power them.

Keith Phillips, Piedmont Lithium's president and chief executive, said in a statement he's excited to advance the company's strategic goal of becoming a leading lithium supplier in the United States.

He said company officials "look forward to making Piedmont an integral part of the Etowah and McMinn County communities as we develop Tennessee lithium together for our mutual success."

Gentry said McMinn County offered a "standard incentive package" to Piedmont. The state also offered incentives, though he didn't have details.

According to the announcement, the new manufacturing plant will use more environmentally responsible and economic processing technology.

The company's North Carolina and Tennessee operations, along with its equity interests in international projects, will help establish North America as a key global producer of lithium hydroxide, a statement said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.