An India-based company plans to expand into Brunswick County with a $650 million manufacturing plant and hundreds of "good-paying" jobs, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday.
Epsilon Advanced Materials, a company that makes graphite for electric vehicle batteries, is expected to hire 500 workers with an average salary of more than $52,000.
"This will be Epsilon's first manufacturing facility in the United States," Cooper said during a news conference at Brunswick Community College's Odell Williamson Auditorium. "They could have gone anywhere in the entire world...They had a lot of options and they chose us."
The company, which will benefit from state incentives of $3.3 million, considered more than 100 sites in the U.S. before choosing Brunswick County for the new 1.5 million-square-foot facility, said Vickram Handa, managing director of Epsilon Advanced Materials.
Epsilon officials said they plan to break ground on the manufacturing plant, which will be located on 150 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Industrial Rail Park in Brunswick County's Northwest township, in 2024. They hope to begin operations by 2026 and reach full capacity by 2031.
"When we looked at what we needed, which was a good workforce, really good work environment, industry-ready site, a power-ready site, Brunswick County was really attractive," Handa said after Thursday's announcement. "Close proximity to Wilmington port is also something that we needed. It goes back to the community and the people and the workforce that we have over here."
The company was founded in 2018 to develop and manufacture "innovative, high-performance and quality graphite for anode components of lithium-ion batteries (LiB)," according to a release from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. Graphite is a key material in the batteries, enabling electrical conductivity.
The Epsilon plant in Brunswick County will enable the U.S. to begin producing graphite overall, officials said. Also according to the partnership's release, "It is the first India company to have an EV battery manufacturing facility in the U.S."
Cooper said clean energy is seen as one of the most lucrative investments in today's economy.
"You talk to any CEO of any car company and they will tell you how they are falling all over themselves to get into the competition in the market for this, to get a priced vehicle that everyday families can afford," Cooper said. "It's good for many reasons for North Carolina to be on the front end to reap the amazing economic benefits that are coming for this and the great paying jobs that will support our families and our communities throughout North Carolina."
North Carolina is already a player in the industry, he said, using a Toyota battery manufacturing plant under construction in the Randolph County town of Liberty as one example.
"Our supply chain runs from mining lithium in Cleveland County to graphite here in Brunswick County to semiconductors in Chatham County to batteries in Randolph County to making electric vehicles themselves in Chatham County, and there is so much more to come," Cooper said.
Brunswick County officials said they, like the state as a whole, have targeted the electric vehicle sector in recent economic development efforts.
"As one of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the country and the fastest-growing in North Carolina, Brunswick County has been tactically pursuing opportunities like this one to keep up with our momentum while providing strong, diverse employment opportunities for our residents," said Randy Thompson, chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners, during Thursday's announcement.
The Brunswick County Board of Commissioners on Sept. 18 approved paying nearly $19 million for 539 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Industrial Rail Park in advance of Epsilon's announcement. Commissioners said at the time that owning the land gives Brunswick County leaders control over its future use, an issue that has posed a challenge to bringing in new employers in the past.