Georgia leaders cheer settlement saving EV battery plant project

    U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff told reporters Monday that he got involved with leaders of rival electric vehicle battery companies once it seemed like talks were stalling and Georgia might lose a huge economic development project. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (Feb. 2021)

    One of Georgia’s largest economic development projects can move forward after two South Korean electric vehicle battery companies settled a trade secrets dispute over the weekend.

    SK Innovation is building a $2.6 billion factory in Commerce, about 70 miles northeast of Atlanta, that will make EV batteries for Ford and Volkswagen cars and employ up to 2,600 Georgians. But SK was accused of stealing intellectual property from rival LG Energy Solution and faced a restrictive ban on imports after a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission.

    The two companies reached a settlement Sunday after intense negotiations and meetings with Democratic Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock as well as Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Ossoff told reporters Monday that he got involved with leaders of both companies once it seemed like talks were stalling.

    “I got involved in these negotiations because 2,600 Georgia jobs were at stake, billions of dollars of investment in our state were at stake, and our state’s leadership as a producer of clean energy technology and batteries for electric vehicles were at stake,” he said. “But working with the company’s leadership and partners in the Biden administration, we were able to break that impasse and move these negotiations to a successful settlement.”

    In exchange for the sprawling plant being allowed to finish construction and open up, SK agreed to pay $1.8 billion in cash and royalties to LG and both companies agreed not to sue each other for a decade as part of an agreement to allow the companies “to peacefully coexist in the global market and compete in good faith.”

    “LG Energy Solution and SK Innovation have decided to settle to compete in an amicable way, all for the future of the U.S. and South Korean electric vehicle battery industries,” the two companies’ CEOs said in a joint statement. “We are dedicated to working together to support the Biden administration’s climate agenda and to develop a robust U.S. supply chain.”

    Ossoff said he was meeting multiple times a day with senior leaders from SK and LG, the White House and new U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai in the leadup to the settlement, and said he stressed the importance of the factory in Georgia’s role in the growing EV market.

    “Georgia is now positioned to be not just a national leader, but a global leader in the production of clean energy technology,” he said. “This is a huge opportunity for Georgia, and this deal is going to attract other companies to invest in our state so that we can become truly a national leader in the clean energy sector.”

    Separately, Kemp had been lobbying President Biden to veto the ITC ruling and protect the existing jobs and investment already made.

    “The announcement of a settlement between SK innovation and LG Energy Solution is fantastic news for northeast Georgia and our state’s growing electric vehicle industry,” Kemp said in a statement. “Our state attracted this massive $2.6 billion investment because of Georgia’s pro-growth leadership, and I have personally participated in countless meetings, calls, and other conversations to make sure this project and the 2,600 expected jobs continued to move forward. I want to offer a special thank you to local leadership in Jackson County and the city of Commerce, our incredible partners with the government of South Korea both here and in Seoul, as well as the Office of the United States Trade Representative for assisting the two companies through the settlement negotiations process.”