Wilmington Mayor John Stanforth announced Thursday that water from the facilities Wilmington built under the 1990 Caesar Creek Lake contract will be used to supply the Honda/LG Energy Solutions joint venture electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility along Interstate 71 near Jeffersonville in Fayette County.
In 1990, when the city signed a contact with the state making Caesar Creek Lake a water supply asset, the intention was to spur economic development in the region.
“Today, we owe Tom McMillan a large debt of gratitude,” Stanforth said of the former county commissioner, farmer and community promoter, who died shortly before the contract with the state was signed. “Tom was instrumental in bringing together the politicians, the state and federal agencies, and the funding to construct the facilities at Caesar Creek Lake. And now the entire region will benefit from his efforts.”
During a special event at the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday that included a multitude of state, local and federal officials, Honda and LG Energy Solution announced that they will build a $3.5 billion joint-venture electric vehicle battery factory at the Fayette County mega-site that will create 2,200 jobs.
Representatives of Fayette County and the Wilmington Water Department have been working together for months to facilitate this water supply endeavor, according to officials.
“We are so pleased to partner with Fayette County on this project,” Stanforth added. “The Caesar Creek Lake contract had become a burden for the city because of our lack of partners. This development is a game-changer for our city. In addition to the economic growth for the entire region, being able to share costs with Fayette County will free up resources to shore up our water infrastructure. This will also have a positive impact on water rates for Wilmington residents in the long run.”
Wilmington and Fayette County are expected to finalize a water supply contract very soon, Stanforth said. When the agreement is complete, it will require approval by Wilmington City Council and the Fayette County Commissioners.
Wilmington’s contract with the state grants the city rights to seven million gallons of water from Caesar Creek Lake each day, explained city Public Works Director Rick Schaffer. On average, Wilmington uses around two million gallons daily.
Excess water will be available to Fayette County.
“Fayette County Engineer Steve Luebbe and his team are great to work with,” said Wilmington Director of Public Service Brian Shidaker. “I expect this to be a long and successful partnership.”
Governor Mike DeWine told reporters this week that the water will be sent along Interstate 71 from Clinton County to the new facilities in Fayette County.
Luebbe told the Record-Herald a large amount of infrastructure will need to be built to facilitate the battery production facility.
“We have about $100 million worth of infrastructure improvements that need done. We have about $70 million on the water side, about $20 million on the sewer side and maybe another $10 million on the roadway infrastructure and utility lines,” Luebbe said.
“We’ve been working with the company in providing the services that they need. There’s a lot of infrastructure work that needs to be done in a short period of time. We’ve been working toward this for a long time and I don’t think we could get a better company than Honda to be part of our community. The way I see it is we’re going to be in a cocoon for these two years and at the end of 2024, we’re going to emerge as something else. And I think it will be for the better.”
Ohio plans to offer approximately $156.3 million in tax incentives and infrastructure improvements for this massive battery plant project that Honda says is key to turning the state into its North American electric vehicle hub.
Of $85 million set aside for infrastructure improvements, $75 million will be for water and utility improvements and the rest will be to improve local and state roads, state officials said Wednesday.
The remainder will go towards tax incentives over a 30-year period, according to state officials. However, local tax incentives are not included in this incentives package.
Fayette County’s mega-site offers more than 1,500 acres and is billed as the state’s “largest certified job ready site.”
Local officials are calling this a transformational economic development for Fayette County and surrounding areas.
Construction on the Fayette County battery plant is expected to begin in early 2023, with a goal of starting mass production of advanced lithium-ion battery modules by 2025. The site is less than an hour’s drive from Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, and Chillicothe. It also includes access to utilities, including water, sewer, electricity, and natural gas.
Honda also announced its plans to invest $700 million and add 300 jobs at three of its own Ohio factories to prepare them to start making EVs and components.
The battery plant could see a total investment of $4.4 billion, officials said.