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St. Joseph County approves sale of land to General Motors for EV battery plant

 Richard Pfiel and Bill Schalliol
Marek Mazurek, WVPE
St. Joseph County Redevelopment Commission member Richard Pfeil signs a document transferring the option to purchase 660 acres of land near New Carlisle to General Motors on Friday June 9, 2023.

The long road to bringing a $3.5 billion electric battery plant to St. Joseph County is nearing an end. Or at least that’s the hope of county officials.

On Friday, the county’s redevelopment commission signed off on an agreement that gives General Motors the option to buy 660 acres of land east of New Carlisle for $275,000.

Bill Schalliol, who’s the director of development for St. Joseph County, said the property transfer is the final step for local officials and the ball is now fully in GM’s court.

“I believe that we’ve done all the steps. This was really the last step,” Schalliol said. “We approved options, we vacated roads, we rezoned the property. We’ve done all the procedural things. So moving the properties towards closing is really kind of the last piece.”

Schalliol is optimistic GM will announce its final decision for the plant site by the end of June. The sale of the land won’t become final until GM also signs a development agreement that was approved by the county council last month.

Getting all the ducks in a row has been a long process that started years ago when the county made investments in zoning, utilities and roadways to 3,000 acres of land on the western side of the county.

Local business leaders have been in talks with GM since late 2021 when the automaker was looking for a site to build a fourth EV battery plant in the U.S. GM was originally partnered with Ultium on that project and the county council voted to approve a massive set of tax breaks for the project in September.

But Ultium pulled out of the deal in December and things stalled as GM looked for another company to partner with. In April, Samsung signed on to help build the factory and development talks resumed.

Jeff Rea recognizes that the litany of things to sort out seems excessive from an outside perspective, but as the president of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce, he emphasized historic levels of investment take time.

“The wages alone will generate an economic impact of over $600 million a year. Which is phenomenal. Never in our lifetime have we seen a project with that kind of economic impact,” Rea said. “Never have we seen a project with this many jobs associated with it. So you wait a little bit longer for those.”

Now the questions left are when will GM make a final decision and what will it be. Schalliol said the company is still waiting to hear about a tax incentive package from the state, but he and Rea are still confident, especially after Friday’s move to approve the sale of the property.

“If they’re willing to make that kind of additional commitment to moving the project forward, we think that that’s a really good sign things are headed on the right track,” Schalliol said.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.