The State of Georgia and the Savannah Harbor–Interstate 16 Corridor Joint Development Authority created a 2,284-acre megasite for economic development in May 2021, but it wasn’t enough for Hyundai Motor Group.
When Hyundai Motor CEO and President Jaehoon Chang and Governor Brian Kemp signed an agreement on May 20 for the Korean automaker to invest $5.54 billion into a facility to build electric vehicles and their batteries, the Bryan County site on Interstate 16 at U.S. 280 had become more mega at 2,923 acres.
“It became apparent that Hyundai Motor Group needed that additional acreage, so we started the process of purchasing the property,” says Trip Tollison, the president and CEO of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and a part of the regional Joint Development Authority. “This project moved along pretty quickly,” he says, “I think all the partners knew that we were onto something special.”
Georgia’s largest-ever economic development project promises 8,100 jobs, including those from outside suppliers investing an additional $1 billion.
Hyundai could begin construction as early as January 2023 and start production in the first half of 2025 with an annual capacity of 300,000 vehicles. The Joint Development Authority is taking bids until June 15 for the first grading contract at the site, with the more contracts for prep work to come.
“From initial conversations on my economic development mission to Korea [in 2019] to Georgia’s investment in the Bryan County megasite, we’ve been preparing for an opportunity like this for a long time,” says Kemp.
According to the governor’s office, since 2020 Georgia has announced more than 20 projects related to electric vehicles that total $13.54 billion in investment and nearly 18,000 jobs.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development has not announced the incentives it is offering Hyundai, but Rivian is receiving state and local tax breaks and other incentives totaling $1.5 billion to bring 7,500 jobs to Morgan and Walton counties to manufacture electric trucks and SUVs.
Hyundai has not confirmed which vehicles it will produce at the new plant, which will use smart factory technologies and rely on renewable energy. One hint: Hyundai Motor North America President and CEO José Muñoz had dealer representatives for Hyundai and its luxury Genesis model stand at the signing ceremony but did not mention Kia, a Hyundai subsidiary that builds vehicles in West Point.
In March, Hyundai announced a global annual goal of selling 1.87 million units of 11 Hyundai and six Genesis electric models by 2030. Including Kia, the target is to produce 3.23 million electric vehicles a year.
The Bryan County site, 16 miles west of I-95 and 28 miles from the port of Savannah, is positioned to help meet those goals.
“I’m proud to call the people of Georgia family and proud to call Bryan County home,” Chang says.
Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Griff Lynch says ongoing capacity-building at the ports of Savannah and Brunswick “puts us in a solid position to ably facilitate trade for Hyundai and future suppliers.”
Georgia Central Railway runs along the site’s eastern edge. It will provide last-mile freight service for supplies and first-mile service for finished products while connecting to CSX in Savannah and Norfolk Southern in Macon.
In addition to the ports, rails, interstates, and Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Tollison says the local workforce and quality of life helped win Hyundai over. “This is an amazing and rare site,” he says. The purchase of the original land from three families last summer meant that any proposed project “could leapfrog the first 25 steps and go straight to Step 26.”