St. Joseph County OKs tax break for electric vehicle battery plant
General Motors and Samsung took a step closer to building an electric battery plant in western St. Joseph County Tuesday night.
The county council approved a property tax break for the $3.5 billion project that the automaker says would create at least 1,600 jobs.
While the vote was unanimous, two council members expressed concern about filling those jobs in this tight labor market.
Republican Council Member Joe Thomas asked GM’s director of local government relations, John Blanchard, what his thoughts were on the issue. Democratic Council Member Rafael Morton went further, telling Blanchard he is “very apprehensive” about the companies finding that many workers locally.
But Blanchard said GM is confident.
“Investing $3.5 billion and not being able to staff it would be a huge mistake,” Blanchard said. “So we spent an awful lot of time on that. We had our HR folks, and our workforce development folks, and our training and education. We needed to convince ourselves early on as part of the site selection process that we could draw the people.”
After the meeting, county Economic Development Director Bill Schalliol said he thinks the plant will draw “underemployed” workers. The tax break agreement requires the plant to pay at least an average $24 hourly wage. Schalliol said he anticipates the plant will unionize, which will push those wages higher.
GM will next negotiate an incentive package with the state of Indiana. Schalliol said he doesn’t think GM is eyeing any other sites, and he expects the company to make an announcement by the end of next month.