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Rivian to get $827 million in state incentives to support R2 expansion and more hiring in Normal

A man in a suit talks to a crowd at a press conference, with an auto manufacturing line behind him
Gov. JB Pritzker

Electric automaker Rivian says it will hire another 550 full-time workers in Normal over the next five years as it begins production on the new R2 model — part of a $1.5 billion investment and expansion plan announced Thursday. In exchange, Rivian is set to receive $827 million in state tax breaks and other incentives over the next 30 years.

The incentives package was announced Thursday at the Rivian plant in Normal, which already employs more than 8,000 people. It’s McLean County’s second-largest employer behind State Farm, and its rapid growth has fueled the local economy but also contributed to significant housing challenges.

“We couldn’t be more excited. We’re leaning into a community we’re so heavily invested in already,” said Rivian founder and CEO RJ Scaringe. 

Rivian already makes its R1 trucks and SUVs and delivery vans in Normal. The company surprised many in March when it announced a change of plans: Instead of starting R2 production at a new plant in Georgia, the more affordable SUV will be built in Normal. That move was expected to save Rivian billions of dollars — and allow the company to bring the R2 model to consumers more quickly.

Gov. JB Pritzker was on hand for Thursday’s announcement.

“A few months ago, the governor and I started talking and I said, 'Boy we’re thinking about how to accelerate our timing for R2,'" Scaringe said.

The March announcement did not mention any state incentives. 

“Rivian had many options for its R2 production and its decision to expand in Illinois speaks volumes to the state’s workforce and the strong EV ecosystem Illinois is creating,” Kristin Richards, director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said in a statement.

What incentives will Rivian get?

The package includes $827 million in incentives over 30 years. Most of it [$634 million] comes from the Reimaging Energy and Vehicles [REV] tax credit program. You can read the entire agreement, which requires Rivian to meet certain benchmarks: 

  • Rivian is obligated to “renovate and construct an expansion” of its already-massive plant, spending at least $1.5 billion in capital improvements.
  • Rivian must create 559 new jobs by Dec. 31, 2029, with “wages equal to or above 120% of the average wage paid to full-time employees in the same job classification in McLean County.”
  • Rivian must retain at least 6,000 full-time employees; it currently has more than 8,500 in Illinois.
  • No company officers or senior employees [defined as supervising at least 10 people] can have faced a “founded allegation” of sexual harassment anytime in the last five years, or at any time during the REV agreement.

“All that incentive dollar is tied directly to that job creation, which protects the state’s taxpayer interest,” Richards said.

The incentive package also includes:

  • The state will fund a second manufacturing training academy in Normal, “co-located at the new facility to create a new dual-credit apprenticeship pilot program for high schools.” Details on this were not available Thursday. [The state already operates a manufacturing training academy at Heartland Community College in Normal, including an EV lab.]
  • Rivian also will get $75 million in capital funding through Invest in Illinois, a program created in 2023 to “to offer closing funds to high priority projects.”

Pritzker said his administration’s approach pairs “industries of the future” [like EVs] with workforce investments in forward-looking communities like Bloomington-Normal.

“This recipe has fueled transformational growth opportunities and demonstrated that economic prosperity does not have to come at the expense of environmental sustainability. In fact, it can advance it,” Pritzker said. “Each and every dollar invested in this market is a win for the working people of Illinois and brings us a step closer to meeting our ambitious climate goals.” 

Will Rivian workers unionize?

As Rivian grows again, one lingering issue — beyond housing — is whether its workforce in Illinois will try to unionize.

An emboldened United Auto Workers [UAW] union has targeted Rivian publicly, by name, for an organizing drive. If at least 30% of workers at a plant sign cards or a petition saying they want a union, the National Labor Relations Board would conduct an election. If a majority choose the union, the NLRB would certify the union for collective bargaining.

Alternatively, a company like Rivian could voluntarily recognize the union, without an election. Or the whole thing could fizzle out.

WGLT asked Pritzker, a labor-friendly governor, whether he wants to see Rivian’s workers unionize. He said his job is to create opportunities for workers — and that it’s up to them whether to unionize.

“They are absolutely free to come in and organize,” Pritzker said. “That’s up to them. That’s not something the state is gonna weigh in and say, ‘You have to,’ or ‘You can’t.’ But the opportunity wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have so many workers here. And the growth will also create more opportunities for workers. And I think the company wants to do the right things for their workers. They’d probably rather choose one path than another, but I have to say, if you’re offering the right benefits, salaries for people, they may choose not to unionize.” 

Previous incentives

This is hardly the first time a governor has come to Normal’s auto plant to announce incentives. 

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn came in 2011 to announce $29 million in incentives in hopes of convincing Mitsubishi Motors to stay and expand in Normal, by making a new crossover SUV. Mitsubishi left town anyway, within about four years.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner came in 2017 and promised $49.5 million in EDGE tax credits to a then-mysterious startup called Rivian, which bought that shuttered Mitsubishi plant. Rivian had to meet annual hiring and capital-investment thresholds over several years, which it struggled to do early on. It’s unclear if Rivian ever got any of those EDGE tax breaks. WGLT has asked both Rivian and Illinois DCEO officials for comment on that.

“We’re transitioning Rivian to the REV program,” Richards said. 

Rivian did receive $1.9 million in state assistance in 2023 through something called the “EDP” program. WGLT has asked Rivian and DCEO for details on that money, too.

City improvement projects

Meanwhile, Rivian said Thursday it would be “participating in several city improvement projects to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to investing in the Illinois economy and community,” but details were scarce.

“We haven't confirmed details on our city improvement projects or training academy just yet, but we will share more information in the coming months,” a Rivian spokesperson said.

A Town of Normal spokesperson said: "The Town is involved in regular discussions with Rivian, but no details are confirmed at this time. The Town is excited about the continued growth of Rivian and the positive impact this will have on our community. We look forward to a bright future of innovation and collaboration."

WGLT has also asked the City of Bloomington for information on "city improvement projects."

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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