County leaders, residents react to Ultium Cells uncertainty

NOW: County leaders, residents react to Ultium Cells uncertainty

NEW CARLISLE, Ind.-- Michiana's Indiana Enterprise Center (IEC) is a contender for the fourth electric vehicle battery plant location of Ultium Cells, a joint venture between General Motors (GM) and LG. They are vetting the IEC, located in New Carlisle, for a new two million square foot facility, providing 2,000 construction-related jobs and 1,600 permanent high-tech jobs.

However, The Wall Street Journal published an article Friday afternoon, saying plans to build a fourth electric vehicle battery plant has been shelved, at least for now.

But local leaders, who have worked to incentivize Ultium to choose St. Joseph County for the factory said they have heard nothing from the companies in question, and are hopeful the project will move forward.

"Not concerning ultimately, we remain in regular contact with GM," said Jeff Rea, President & CEO of the South Bend Regional Chamber. "Our site will play an important role in the future of the electric vehicle industry, probably with GM."

Rea said they would be working to sell the land to someone else if they had no confidence that Ultium could choose the site for their fourth U.S. plant.

"They know we have a great site, they know there's a lot of interest in that site," he said. "We're not deterred by the news that we saw today, we know the electric vehicle industry is pretty important in the future."

In a statement to ABC57 News, GM said it's committed to investing in a fourth U.S. Ultium Cells plant and producing more than a million electric vehicles in North America by 2025.

The company declined to comment on what they call "speculation."

But in the community, not everyone has been excited about the prospect of a new manufacturing facility in New Carlisle.

"You take pride in a small town like this," said lifelong New Carlisle resident, Michael Skaggs. "I don’t think a battery plant with all the lithium and all the stuff that goes inside them, sitting over the largest aquifer in the area, is a good idea for this town or its residents."

The IEC sits atop the Kankakee aquifer.

Many said they welcome new jobs and development, but some worry the county is neglecting neighbors who have concerns.

“New Carlisle tends to get forgotten about when you talk about St. Joseph County," Skaggs said. "You know, I've coached 5th generation farm kids that now half their farmland's going to get taken up. So they've dreamed of becoming farmers their whole life and that's going to get stripped away from them."  

A FAQs page regarding the potential Ultium Cells project can be found here.

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