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Electric vehicle maker to build factory in Joliet

Expected to open in late 2022, the facility is expected to create 745 jobs.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces Lion Electric’s plan to build an electric vehicle factory near Joliet.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announces Lion Electric’s plan to build an electric vehicle factory near Joliet.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Lion Electric, a Canadian-based maker of electric trucks and buses, said Friday it will build a $70 million factory in Joliet that will create 745 jobs.

The operation will be the company’s first U.S. manufacturing center and is expected to be complete in late 2022. Lion executives said it should have a production capacity of 20,000 zero-emissions vehicles per year.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker joined the company to announce the project, calling it “a strong step forward in our work to expand clean energy alternatives and the jobs they bring to our communities.”

During an event at MxD, a center for advanced manufacturing on Chicago’s Goose Island, Pritzker said Lion is building “the largest production site for zero-emissions vehicles in the United States.”

Lion has qualified for state tax incentives under the Edge program, which allows the company to claim credits for 50% of the state income tax attributable to the new jobs. The maximum credit is $7.9 million if the company meets its investment and job growth promises, said a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Lion also is working on local tax credits. The 900,000-square-foot facility is under construction at 3835 Youngs Road.

“This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Lion CEO Marc Bedard.

Bedard also said the company hopes to go well beyond its hiring commitment for the state tax credits. “So we’re looking at over 1,400 jobs over the next five, six years,” he said.

Lion is gearing up for what it sees as increased demand for electric vehicles from systems that operate school buses, transit vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. It builds and assembles all vehicle components.

The company cited Illinois’ central location, giving it access to major customers, as a reason for its decision to build here. It also cited Will County’s long tradition of manufacturing employment and the quality of the local workforce.

Amid predictions that employment in the electric vehicle sector will double by 2024, Pritzker has announced measures to provide the industry with a pipeline of skilled workers. The state has said it will spend $15 million to develop two Manufacturing Training Academies downstate to train people for high-tech production lines covering electric vehicles and other products.

Also Friday, Montreal-based Lion became a publlcly traded company. Its shares are now listed on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges by virtue of its merger with Northern Genesis Acquisition, a so-called “blank check company” formed to acquire privately held firms. Lion said the deal brought $490 million into its coffers.