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How decisions made 15 years ago helped pave the way for Honda's new battery plant

A crowd gathers in the atrium to hear an announcement from state and Honda officials on the location of a new battery plant to power electric vehicles.
Daniel Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A crowd gathers in the atrium to hear an announcement from state and Honda officials on the location of a new battery plant to power electric vehicles.

Local, state, and federal leaders are touting the government policies put in place — both recently and decades ago — that helped pave the way for Honda’s new electric vehicle battery plant and continued investments from the automotive industry.

Honda’s battery production plant in Fayette County will have an initial investment of $3.5 billion with the expectation of creating 2,200 jobs by 2025.

The location of the battery plant will be near I-71 and U.S. Route 35, in the Jeffersonville area. This region was designated as a business park by county officials in the early 2000’s.

County leaders said they continued to develop the area — known as the Fayette County Mega Site — after the region missed out on a previous Honda plant in 2006.

They equipped the area with utilities and expanded its water and sewer, electric, and fiber optic services. Other companies are already doing business in the area, such as the Menards Manufacturing and Distribution Center, and it was ready when it came time for Honda to once again scout a new location.

Making the area a job ready site was made possible through a partnership that included several grants from the state, according to Fayette County Commissioner Dan Dean.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a Republican, said that type of thinking proves the importance for government leaders to keep their eye on the future to attract potential economic investments.

He used the example of former Ohio Gov. Jim Rhodes who helped create the Transportation Research Center, where test companies can now work on research and development for automated driving.

“If we said today that we wanted to do that, we’d be behind the times, that’s why you got to make these investments earlier,” said Husted.

Husted said, sometimes, leaders might not know exactly what the end result will be, but it’s important to still lay the groundwork when an opportunity presents itself.

“You know the opportunity is there, you know the world is moving in that direction, and you got to either be in it or be left behind,” said Husted.

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said during Honda’s official announcement on Tuesday that federal government subsidies are also creating a path for innovation and development.

Brown referenced the CHIPS Act which created $52 billion in subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing and research. Intel has said the bill was a main sticking point in order for the company to expand its investment beyond the initial $20 billion plant that’s currently under construction in Licking County.

Brown also mentioned the $369 billion in investments the U.S. will make in the clean energy industry through the Inflation Reduction Act. The act includes $10 billion in tax credits for investments in clean technology manufacturing such as facilities that build electric vehicles.

As Honda looks to expand electric vehicle manufacturing in Ohio, state leaders might be taking a closer look at policies surrounding EVs and EV ownership.

In Ohio, electric vehicle owners must pay $225 when they renew their vehicle registration. People who drive hybrid vehicles pay a $100 to renew their registration.

Lawmakers who supported these fees said it offsets the lost tax revenue the drivers don’t pay at the gas pump. Ohio has a state gas tax of 38.5 cents a gallon. Critics see it as a barrier for people who want to make the jump to EVs.

State legislators have introduced other bills to support the growth of the EV industry, such as a grant rebate program to create electric vehicle charging stations (SB32, HB47), permission for EV manufacturers to operate one or more dealerships in Ohio (SB101), and a temporary sales tax exemption for EV production parts (HB292).

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