Georgia remains on an electric-vehicle-driven roll, and innovation isn’t limited to Georgia’s roads. Traditional economic pillars agriculture and defense also are growing through technology.
That New EV Shine
Georgia’s race into the electric vehicle future accelerated with the July 20 announcement that Denkai America will manufacture electrodeposited copper foil in Richmond County and bring its North American headquarters there.
The Augusta Corporate Park facility mainly will supply foil necessary for the lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles. Denkai America, part of Japan’s Nippon Denkai, is North America’s only producer of high-quality electrodeposited copper foil, which it makes in Camden, South Carolina. That facility will continue making foil, mostly for printed electronics.
Coincidentally, the copper from such electronics will be recycled at the metal recycling facility German company Aurubis is building in Richmond County. Aurubis and Denkai have no relationship.
Denkai planned to build the new plant in Camden but lacked the space, Denkai COO Michael Coll says. The benefits of the Georgia site include increased initial capacity from 9,000 to 9,500 metric tons a year, room to triple production, and a locked-in low cost for electricity, the company shows in an online presentation. The initial facility will cost $150 million. Construction is due to start in September, with samples shipping in mid-2024. Denkai aims to invest $430 million over five years and create 250 jobs.
“I believe that Denkai America and the Georgia Economic Development team share the same vision as it pertains to the automotive transition from internal combustion engines to EVs,” Coll says. “We are excited to be a part of the EV ecosystem that Georgia has committed to building.”
Georgia reports more than $12.6 billion in investment from EV-related projects since 2020. Rivian announced a $5 billion EV facility in December, and Hyundai followed with a $5.5 billion project in May.
Power to Fuel EV Growth
Georgia is number one in the Southeast in new registrations for electric vehicles. To charge those cars, Georgia is submitting a plan in August for its share of $5 billion in federal National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure grants.
The state Department of Transportation expects to receive $116.2 million over five years to build out “alternative fuel corridors” with public electric charging stations.
“Strengthening our electric charging network will require collaboration among government, industry, utilities, and other stakeholders at every stage of the process,” Jannine Miller, GDOT’s director of planning, said in a July 12 press release announcing a partnership with Chicago-based JLL to develop and implement the plan.
Georgia also could seek grants from a $2.5 billion discretionary EV infrastructure program that, like the $5 billion NEVI program, is part of the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
Still Strong on Defense
Electric vehicles aren’t yet overrunning Georgia’s top export industry, defense. Military drone maker Area-I, for example, is spending $60 million on a new manufacturing and research facility in Atlanta in the expectation of creating 180 jobs over three years.
The Georgia-based manufacturer of advanced unmanned aircraft is a subsidiary of California defense technology company Anduril Industries, whose chief operating officer, Matt Grimm, said in a July 14 announcement: “We’re proud to continue to be an active part of Atlanta’s growing technology and defense community. Atlanta has a highly skilled and educated workforce in aerospace, engineering, and robotics.”
In Marietta, Lockheed Martin is laying the groundwork for an expansion costing up to $1.6 billion over 20 years, fueled by possible new defense contracts and Development Authority of Cobb County bonds. The company envisions 500 to 3,000 new jobs.
Always Rooted in Agriculture
As GaBiz has reported, technology is transforming Georgia’s biggest industry, agriculture. The latest example is 80 Acres Farms, an Ohio-based company that is building its ninth farm and first outside the Midwest in Covington.
The $120 million facility is expected to be operational in August and to begin distributing produce early next year. “We went looking for another community where government officials and business leaders were prioritizing the future of farming, and we found that in Covington,” 80 Acres Farms CEO Mike Zelkind said in a statement.
The indoor, vertical farm operates year-round without pesticides and produces the equivalent of a traditional farm covering 300 times the area.
Seven rural Georgia counties placed among the 50 top nonmetropolitan communities in the nation in a recent ranking by Site Selection magazine.
Based on economic development projects from the 12 months that ended on April 30, towns in the counties of Appling, Bacon, Dodge, Elbert, Franklin, Hart, and Union made the list. Leading the way was Alma, the seat of Bacon County, whose five qualifying projects included a La Regina di Marzano tomato sauce plant and an InFlex plastics plant.
Fit for Growth in Gwinnett
Okabashi Brands is investing $20 million into its Buford home over five years to double production and add 340 jobs, the company announced in June.
“The support from our community has fostered our growth and has allowed us to continue producing quality, American-made footwear,” said Okabashi CEO Sara Irvani, who previously explained the third-generation family-owned company’s success to GaBiz. “We are thrilled to be contributing to the local economy through this expansion.” Okabashi’s fully recyclable sandals are among the 1 percent of shoes sold in the United States that are made in America.