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WGLT, an NPR station in central Illinois, is following every move at the Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. The electric vehicle startup has gone from stealth mode to big-time player in the auto world, attracting attention (and big money) from companies like Ford and Amazon.

In Neighborly Nod, Rivian To Decline $1 Million Grant From Town

RJ Scaringe
Carlos Delgado/AP Images for Rivian
“The impact of COVID-19 has reminded us all of the importance of community,” wrote Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe.";s:

Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe said his company will not be seeking the $1 million grant that it was owed from the Town of Normal, saying “the funds would better serve our community by remaining with the municipality."

In a letter to the Normal Town Council, Scaringe acknowledged the billions of dollars in investments Rivian has received from Ford, Amazon, Cox Automotive, Black Rock, and T. Rowe Price. The Town of Normal was one of the first investors, pledging in 2016 the $1 million grant and property tax breaks to the then-stealthy startup if certain hiring and investment thresholds were met.

Rivian’s 2019 investments at its Normal manufacturing plant would have qualified it for the $1 million this year. Instead, it’s declining the money.

“The impact of COVID-19 has reminded us all of the importance of community,” Scaringe wrote. “The main asset of any community is its people, and as resources stretch thinner for every community across the world, we want to do whatever is possible for a pre-production company in our position to help alleviate pressure on our home.”

To get the $1 million town grant, Rivian was required to invest $20 million into the plant by 2022. It’s already done that. (Rivian actually plans to invest over $750 million into the plant over the next 18 months.)

In his letter, Scaringe acknowledged the “skepticism” that some had about Rivian early on, long before its headline-grabbing tie-ups with Ford and Amazon.

“Without the trust, confidence and leadership from the Town of Normal, our current growth trajectory would not have been possible,” he wrote.

Rivian will still pursue its local property-tax breaks. The Bloomington-Normal Economic Development Council says Rivian has met the minimum hiring and plant investment thresholds for the 2019 tax year. It’s unclear exactly how much Rivian will get for 2019. It received $561,000 for the 2017 tax year—the last year it qualified.

The Normal Town Council will discuss those tax breaks Monday night. It was one of several taxing bodies that agreed to the incentives. The town’s share of the tax breaks for 2019 are expected to be around $106,074 (town and library).

Rivian plans to make electric vehicles, batteries, and other components at the Normal manufacturing plant. Rivian already has 328 employees based in Normal, with plans to hire hundreds more as production ramps up. That would make it one of McLean County’s largest employers.

Workers Return To Plant

Rivian’s Normal plant has largely been shut down since mid-March due to the coronavirus. That will change Monday.

Around 50 employees serving in construction supervision, basic maintenance, and central engineering will come back to the plant, a spokesperson said. Only around 10 to 15 employees had been at the plant over the past six weeks. (All company employees are still being paid regardless of their location.)

Rivian said it “needed time to prepare and build our supply of safety and cleaning equipment.”

“We have already contacted all of those returning employees and have emphasized that safety and comfortability are our top priorities. If anyone feels uncomfortable, they are not required to be on site,” the company said.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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