United States

Auto leaders’ venture company picks North Carolina global headquarters

(The Center Square) — A venture company founded by seven of the world’s largest automakers will make North Carolina its global headquarters, backed by more than $3 million in taxpayer subsidy as potential reimbursement.

IONNA says it is purpose-built to “lead, innovate, create, and drive forward a redefinition of charging as an end-to-end integrated customer experience” in the electric automotive industry. BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, and Stellantis formed the coalition with the idea of “reimagining electric vehicle charging.”

The company’s launch includes a plan to design, develop, build and operate a high-powered electric vehicle charging network “key to increased EV adoption in North America.” A company release says the site will “house a customer experience lab serving as the quarterback and central node to seven new satellite labs at each of the founding” coalition members’ facilities.

North Carolina landed the start-up in part because of a Job Development Investment Grant approved by the Economic Investment Committee on Tuesday. The 12-year grant authorizes potential reimbursement of $3,075,000 over 12 years.

The state and IONNA say the lifetime of the grant will grow the state’s economy by $724 million, generate 203 new jobs, and return 108% on public dollars. That’s $2.08 per $1 cost to the state.

The Department of Commerce says the average annual wage at IONNA will be $128,457 and listed the Durham County average at $90,727.

The department justifies incentives based on the new jobs businesses will bring to the state, announcing the average hourly wage for the new jobs and comparing it to the county’s median hourly wage.

Economists doubt the effectiveness of financial incentives for private businesses to expand or move to a new state. They also question the use of hourly wages as an indicator because the salaries of a few corporate leaders can skew the average higher while not having the same impact on the median wage.

“The area’s established history of research, innovation, and its vibrant growing community make it the perfect place for IONNA to join, thrive and pioneer,” said CEO Seth Cutler in a company release. I’m excited to grow a cross-industry team that will deliver the IONNA vision from our new home base.”

In a release from the state, Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders said, “When advanced manufacturers commit to North Carolina, it confirms the importance of our ‘First in Talent’ plan which leads the charge in prioritizing the development of diverse and well-trained workforce to help companies blaze new trails.”

The announcement is one of several in the automotive industry for North Carolina this year and since the end of the COVID-19 era. The state has twice consecutively earned the CNBC network’s No. 1 ranking for America’s Top States for Business.

Gov. Roy Cooper, when last July’s announcement was made, gave comments seeking credit and chastising the Republican majority Legislature – the people who enacted laws making the state more friendly to businesses expanding or seeking new homes. The governor has long called public education “a state of emergency here” while businesses and population move in, and school choice registration wait lists grow.

The equation creates a workforce talent level, and the governor acknowledged that in reaction to the decision.

“This cutting-edge company and its founding automotive manufacturers will benefit from the innovative ecosystem, highly skilled workforce, and central location of North Carolina to take its pioneering technology to market,” Cooper said Tuesday.

According to a January analysis by Consumer Affairs, global market share ranks were No. 3 by Honda, No. 4 by Hyundai, No. 5 by Kia, No. 7 by BMW and No. 8 by Mercedes.

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