NC economy charging up as Kempower to invest $41M, hire 300 at new Durham facility

DURHAM – A manufacturer of charging stations for electric vehicles will open a new manufacturing facility in Durham County.

The Finland-headquartered Kempower Inc. will invest $41.2 million into its new facility, and plans to create 300 jobs, according to a statement released on Tuesday by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper.

Jobs will pay average annual salaries of $88,440 by the third year of the project, the statement noted.

It’s the latest economic development project connected to the state’s rapidly-expanding clean energy economy, which Governor Cooper highlighted in the statement.

“North Carolina’s global reputation as a clean energy manufacturing powerhouse continues to grow,” said Governor Cooper. “Electric vehicle charging stations are a key component of our transportation infrastructure and we welcome these high-wage clean energy jobs that Kempower brings to our state.”

Other major economic development announcements include Toyota’s planned electric battery manufacturing plant in Randolph County, VinFast’s electric vehicle manufacturing plant and battery plant in Chatham County, Boom Supersonic’s aerospace manufacturing plant based from the Piedmont Triad Airport, and an investment in Marion by Forza X1, a manufacturer of recreational electric watercraft.

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Facility to be operational by 2023

Kempower manufacturers and distributes electric vehicle charging solutions, including for public charging stations, fleets, and original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs.

“We think North Carolina is a perfect location for us and fulfills our high ESG requirements,” said said Kempower’s CEO Tomi Ristimäki in a statement.  “We will make sure that the global Kempower team works together to successfully scale up the production in the U.S.”

According to a statement, the company has expanded rapidly in Northern Europe, and the new facility in North Carolina, the firm will “gain the ability to directly supply its customers in the United States.”

The company selected North Carolina for the facility in part due to the project being facilitated by a Job Development Investment Grant, or JDIG, that was approved on Tuesday morning by the state’s Economic Investment Committee.

Under the performance-based economic incentives package, the firm will receive up to $3,010,500 in reimbursements across a 12 year grant period.

But an analysis conducted by the State of North Carolina anticipates that the facility will grow the state economy by more than $726 million during that timeframe.

Production at the planned facility is expected to begin in 2023, as the firm intends to produce charging solutions that are compliant with the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program (NEVI) established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Under that program, North Carolina has access to $109 million to “create a network of fast-charging electric vehicle charging stations along designated major highways and in communities.”  North Carolina’s plans under the program were submitted in August 2022.

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NC is a ‘hub’ for EVs

In August 2022, an executive with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina told WRAL TechWire that the state was rapidly becoming a hub for the electric vehicle industry.

“After the recent announcements from Toyota, VinFast, and Forza X1, the state is becoming a hub for the electric vehicle industry, which will only bolster the state’s positioning in the semiconductor industry,” said Melissa Smith, the vice president of business recruitment and development for EDPNC.

As of August 2022, there were 43 potential automotive sector projects, which represented about 20% of the total economic development pipeline.

At the time, Smith said that the “majority” of projects related to the electric vehicle supply chain, while overall the project list had grown by 15% since the beginning of the year.

In January, Chris Chung, the CEO of the EDPNC, told an audience that North Carolina would continue to see economic development announcements in 2023, particularly in biomanufacturing, semiconductors, and in clean energy and electric vehicle segments.

Durham County will also be the site of an expansion project from Eli Lilly, which announced an additional investment of $450 million earlier this year.

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