Rivian Automotive is in talks to buy the entire 2.4 million-square-foot plant and manufacture there, bringing 500 jobs by 2021 and 1,000 when at full production, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced late Thursday afternoon.
The company expects to invest up to $175 million in the project by 2024.
Mitsubishi shut down production at the plant in November 2015 and laid off the last employees in May. The plant employed 1,200 before closing and about 3,000 at its peak.
"It’s really rare when manufacturing leaves a community for it to come back," said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. "It’s a great day for this community."
Rivian, which has locations in Detroit and San Francisco, is "an automotive technology company developing an integrated portfolio of vehicles and services to advance the shift to sustainable mobility," according to DCEO.
“They will be manufacturing a vehicle and some associated technology around the platform that they’re working on," said Koos, "but it’s really going to be up to them to say what they’re doing.”
When asked if former Mitsubishi employees might fill Rivian jobs, Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council CEO Kyle Ham said, "Absolutely."
"They want to find the most experienced and talented people in that industry, and we have them here,” he said. “We hope some of those people will still be around when we get to that point (of manufacturing).”
The town of Normal is expected to contribute a $1 million grant and a five-year property tax abatement for the development, contingent on Rivian meeting investment and employment projections.
An agreement between Rivian and Normal specifies that in order to receive incentives, the company must employ 35 workers by the end of 2018, 75 in 2019, 300 in 2020 and 500 in 2021. Those are "full-time employees with an average weekly salary equal to or greater than the average weekly salary in McLean County."
“We’ve been pretty clear from day one: Anyone that buys this plant, they need time to get it up and running again,” Ham said of that timeline. “The good news is there’s jobs on the horizon. If there’s a downside, it’ll be a while. We knew that going into it.”
The town's agreement also requires Rivian to invest $40.5 million in the project's first five years.
Each body that taxes the site, including the Normal-based McLean County Unit 5 school district and McLean County, will be asked to approve a similar property tax abatement. Ham said that will happen over the next two weeks.
The Normal City Council will consider the agreement at 7 p.m. Monday, and Heartland Community College's board of trustees will consider one Tuesday. Rivian CEO R.J. Scaringe is expected to address the council.
Rivian is negotiating for state incentives as well, but "nothing has been finalized," said Jacquelyn Reineke, media relations director for DCEO.
Ham said he couldn't comment on negotiations between Rivian and Maynards Industries, the industrial asset auction, appraisal and liquidation company that bought the plant in June.
Koos said Rivian may close on the site in January.
"This stops the selling or demolition of this property if there was no buyer,” said Ham of the announcement. “We’ve been able to save that from occurring, precluding the finality of all this.”
Rivian also hopes to "attract suppliers to the area, which may create additional job opportunities," according to DCEO.
"Rivian also plans to designate part of the site for community use for outdoor recreation and first responder training, as well as establish partnerships for training programs with local educational institutions," according to the release.
Ham, who has served as chairman of a task force searching for a buyer for the plant, said negotiations with Rivian began four months ago and intensified in the last eight weeks.
Those credited in the release include the EDC; the town of Normal; McLean County; DCEO; and Intersect Illinois, a nonprofit organization intended to help lure businesses to the state.