RALEIGH — The largest economic development project in North Carolina history is officially revving up in Chatham County.
VinFast, a Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer, was officially introduced in a ceremony Tuesday at the Raleigh Convention Center as the first tenant at Triangle Innovation Point, the county’s huge megasite near Moncure.
The company plans a manufacturing facility there that will produce a line of premium battery-powered SUVs and the batteries to power them — creating 7,500 jobs with a projected investment of at least $4 billion.
The average wage at VinFest is projected to be about $51,100 annually.
It’s North Carolina’s first automobile manufacturing plant — after a long line of “misses” — with construction starting this year, and the first EVs (electric vehicles) scheduled to roll off the assembly line in mid-2024.
Dozens of Chatham County officials and business leaders, along with state leaders, attended the announcement ceremony, which was held at the Raleigh Convention Center downtown. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper made the official announcement.
“North Carolina is quickly becoming the center of our country’s emerging, clean energy economy,” Cooper said. “VinFast’s transformative project will bring many good jobs to our state, along with a healthier environment as more electric vehicles take to the road to help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
VinFast wants to eventually build 250,000 premium electric SUVs per year at the site, with production output initially starting at 150,000 annually. The private automotive startup, founded by billionaire Pham Nhat Vuong, will produce both electric batteries and vehicles at the site.
The TIP site’s proximity to rail, U.S. 1, the I-540 loop, Research Triangle Park and airports — it’s just six miles from Sanford’s Raleigh Executive Jetport and about 30 minutes from RDU — has made the site, with its 47 building locations and the capacity for more than 12 million square feet of space, an attractive potential new home for business and industry.
The project — which was codenamed “Project Blue” by Chatham EDC officials — will bring lots of green to Chatham and the state: VinFast’s project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by at least $71.59 billion over 32 years, the time period when state grants could be active, and increase the region’s payroll by $383 million annually.
“This announcement is the culmination of decades of hard work by current and former EDC staff, Chatham County staff, our elected officials, local and regional partners, and support from local citizens,” Greg Lewis, chairperson of the Chatham EDC’s board of directors, told the News + Record. “Welcoming a major employer like VinFast to Chatham County will transform the area, positively impacting the tax base and will retain and draw people to the area for years to come. This has always been the vision for Chatham County, and we are very excited to witness it come to fruition with this project.”
Triangle Innovation Point is one of two megasites in Chatham County. Both it and the Chatham Advanced Manufacturing site in Siler City have seen a flurry of activity and interest in the last year or so — “unprecedented” was the word used both by Lewis and Michael Smith, the EDC’s president.
“Having two megasites is such a benefit to this county and this county’s future,” Lewis said.
A massive incentives package helped draw VinFast to Chatham and the TIP site, including a 20-year, performance-based $400 million grant from Chatham County and a Transformative-class Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) of $316.1 million, to be paid conditionally over 32 years if VinFast meets specified performance targets. Other grants came from N.C. Community Colleges ($38 million) and the GoldenLEAF Foundation ($50 million).
In addition, Chatham officials anticipate the state’s General Assembly will appropriate $450 million to be used for site and road improvements, and additional water and sewer.
VinFast will occupy much of the TIP East site, located near the U.S 1-Pea Ridge Road interchange.
The site, formerly known as the Moncure Megasite, was originally developed beginning in 2005 by members of the Kaplan family, which formed Moncure Holdings LLC after acquiring tracts of land there. An investor group led by Kirk Bradley of Lee-Moore Capital and Arthur Samet and Brian Hall of Samet Corporation joined the team in 2019 to assist them in development of the site — which now includes TIP West and, more recently, on the Primary Megasite through a joint LLC known as TIP East Development Partners LLC.
Bradley is part-owner of Chatham Media Group LLC, which owns the News + Record.
VinFest’s choosing the site is the latest in a string of economic wins for the state and for the Central North Carolina region, but the first “home run” for Chatham County — dwarfing major projects like Toyota, which is building a battery assembly plant at the Randolph-Greensboro megasite not far from Siler City, and the British-based Arrival Automotive, which plans to establish its U.S. and North American headquarters in Charlotte. North Carolina had been in the running for a long series of huge automotive projects in the last few years, but lost out on each — including Volvo (which went to South Carolina in 2015), Mercedes-Benz (Georgia, also 2015), Toyota-Mazda (Alabama, 2018), Tesla (Texas, 2019) and Ford — which looked at the CAM site in 2021, in addition to the TIP site — but ultimately went to Tennessee.
The state’s other recent wins include Boom Supersonic, an airplane manufacturer hoping to reinvent supersonic passenger travel, which announced a $500 million plant in Greensboro in February. Toyota’s billion-dollar battery plant is being built in Randolph County and will employ 1,750 people.
VinFast, founded in 2017 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Vietnamese conglomerate Vingroup, is a global producer of premium automobiles. Headquartered in Hanoi, Vietnam, it has a state-of-the-art vehicle production facility in Hai Phong, Vietnam, that has the capacity to produce 950,000 vehicles per year by 2026.
VinFast’s rapid growth has seen it establish global operations in the U.S., Canada, Germany, France and the Netherlands. VinFast currently provides an ecosystem of EV products in its home country of Vietnam, including e-scooters, electric buses and electric cars, charging station system and green energy solutions.
According to a release from Gov. Cooper’s office, VinFast announced the VF e35 and VF e36 (now named the VF 8 and VF 9) at the 2021 Los Angeles Auto Show last November. The company introduced three new EVs (the VF 5, VF 6 and VF 7) at the 2022 Consumer Electronics Show, which combined with the earlier models allows the company to serve all five major vehicle segments, from small crossover to large SUV. Each vehicle embodies VinFast’s goal of offering leading technology with a premium experience at an attainable price point.