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Rivian plant project faces community opposition, Gov. Kemp says plans will not change

Unlike the Kia plant built in 2007, following plant closures near West Point

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp said the electric truck assembly plant planned for east of Atlanta will not change in the face of community opposition. The Rivian plant would be the state’s third auto assembly plant.

The proposed electric truck plant in Morgan County and its taxpayer incentives invites comparisons to the Kia auto assembly plant built in West Point 15 years ago.

When then Gov. Sonny Perdue helped break ground at West Point’s Kia plant in 2006, that region was hurting economically.

"West Point, Georgia and the surrounding areas had fallen on very hard economic times when we lost the textile industry there," recalled Drew Ferguson, a member of congress who previously served as mayor of West Point.

"We had gone through a decade and a half of people losing their jobs, people losing their homes, losing their businesses. And a downtown that had fallen completely apart," he said.

Ferguson said the community was hungry for the 5,000 or so new jobs promised by the automobile assembly plant.  

In contrast in Morgan County, state figures show unemployment is at a minuscule 2.1 percent. Angry residents said the Rivian jobs aren’t needed there. GOP Gubernatorial hopeful David Perdue has denounced the project and said Gov. Brian Kemp, whose administration negotiated an incentive package with Rivian, is failing them.  

But Kemp said he has not considering moving it.  

"No, we have not. We’re excited to have Rivian come into the state of Georgia," Kemp said Thursday, shortly after qualifying to run for re-election. "7,500 high paying jobs, billions of dollars in investment. Something the local community has been working on for a decade."

Many folks in Morgan County said the project blindsided them and is inconsistent with the Rutledge community's rural character.

"There were just as many loud voices in West Point," Ferguson said, who is backing Kemp's re-election.

Though many individuals 15 years ago in West Point opposed having the Kia plant near their homes, Ferguson said the need for new jobs prevailed.

"You can’t look at it in a microcosm. The state needs jobs now. We’ll need jobs in the future. And we’re going to be glad this (Rivian) plant is there," Ferguson said.

The Kia plant was hatched during Sonny Perdue’s second term and was a done deal by the next gubernatorial election.   

The Rivian plant will be part of the background this election year – and perhaps beyond.  

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