When Stellantis told the city in November it was considering Kokomo for the site of its new $2.5-billion electric vehicle battery plant, local officials went into full-on sales mode pitching the county for the project.

Charlie Sparks, president and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, said the company was also considering cities in Michigan and Ohio for the development, and there was no guarantee they would choose Kokomo.

“They told us we were a contender,” he said. “But being a contender is not the same as being a winner.”

But timing was on the city’s side. In December, GKEDA closed on the purchase of 146 acres that was going to be the home of the new industrial park. Instead, it became a perfect incentive to entice Stellantis and Samsung SDI to choose Kokomo for the joint venture.

Now, GKEDA is working with the companies to not only close on the industrial park land, but an additional 150 acres surrounding the site to accommodate the 3.3 million-square-foot facility.

Sparks said that since the official announcement Tuesday, he’s been in daily phone conversations with the companies to help put together the purchase agreement for the property. He said that agreement should be finalized in the coming months.

And now that the companies have selected Kokomo for the new factory, the city is moving out of sales mode and into service mode to help the company begin development of the site, he said.

“The work isn’t over because the announcement has been made,” Sparks said. “The work continues, but we’re shifting our focus now.”

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore said it was a whirlwind putting together incentive packages and pitching the city on such a tight timeline. But now, the city is getting down to business on the project.

“We have extreme excitement and pride in the the fact that our team was able to put together a package that allowed them to choose Kokomo as the site,” he said. “But it’s kind of a nervous excitement. Now that it’s real, the real work will begin.”

That includes building a relationship with Samsung SDI. The new plant marks the company’s first manufacturing presence in the U.S., and working with a South Korean company is something new for local officials.

Sparks said GKEDA is planning seminars for leaders to learn about Korean culture in order to be as accommodating to the company as possible and create a solid foundation for business relations.

“We’re thinking ahead to see how we can do the best job possible to make Samsung feel welcome,” he said.

Officials are also thinking ahead on how to accommodate the 1,400 workers the new facility will eventually employ, and how to leverage the $2.5 billion investment to attract other companies to the city and county.

Moore said that includes trying to find a new site for another industrial park now that the battery plant will occupy the land. He said the city will need additional space to accommodate companies that may want to be a supplier to the facility or be near the development.

“Our initial thought with the purchase of the industrial park was to accommodate a handful of corporations that would like to set up shop here,” he said. “So now that that’s not available and seeing the benefits of still of having something like that, we will be actively searching for some additional ground as a dedicated industrial park.”

Sparks said officials are already discussing how to attract more housing to the area to help accommodate the huge influx of new jobs. Moore said the city plans to work with housing developers proposing projects in the city to ensure they can meet their building timelines.

Moore said the city also hopes the investment will attract new businesses to come to the area around Championship Park, where Westfield-based Henke Development Group has around 35 acres available for development. The site has yet to attract a major business.

”We’re hoping that the ripple effect will take hold,” he said. “We just need to continue to work diligently to keep Kokomo and our county in a good position to accommodate anybody that may be interested.”

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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