OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Despite being on the short list for the location of a new Volkswagen (VW) electric vehicle battery plant, Oklahoma has lost the bid to Canada – and state leaders are reacting to the news.
“It’s frustrating,” said Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat. “It’s an honor to be considered, but that honor only goes so far. Finishing in second place or getting that participation trophy is not good enough.”
In early March, Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a $698 million incentive package into law to lure a major company to the MidAmerica Industrial Park in Pryor, Oklahoma.
Many in the state were hoping that major company would be the Volkswagen Group.
However, VW announced Monday that it would be taking its business to St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.
“The Volkswagen Group steps up its activities in North America in a bid to take a strong position in this important growth market for battery electric vehicles,” said the VW press release. “The decision to expand the PowerCo cell production ramp-up from Europe to Canada is further proof of the ambitious growth strategy of the Group in North America.”
This is not Oklahoma’s first loss when it comes to landing a major company’s latest factory location.
Just last July, Panasonic ultimately chose Kansas for its new electric vehicle battery factory and in 2020, Tesla chose Austin, Texas instead of Tulsa for its facility.
“There’s a lot of good competitors out there,” said Treat. “We just got to figure out how to become more competitive and actually land these at the end of the day.”
On Monday, Treat announced he’s forming an Economic Development Select Committee to determine why businesses keep driving by Oklahoma.
“What did Austin do? What did Ontario do? Where are we falling short? What did Kansas do?” said Treat. “I want to do a deeper dive to figure out exactly what their incentive structure was like and what determined the ultimate outcome of this.”
A spokesman for VW, Mark Gillies, told KFOR Canada was selected due to:
- Its position as a green supplier of choice for electric vehicles and batteries
- High ESG standards
- Being a stable, reliable partner
- Based on ongoing dialogue since non-binding MoU in August 2022 and MoU expansion in December 2022
- Ideal economic conditions
Gillies said Ontario got the nod because of:
- Established automotive industry
- Proximity to CAM production
- Widely decarbonized power mix (share of CO2-free generation at ~92%)
- Will be a sustainable starting base for our power supply
Gov. Stitt released a statement following the announcement:
There’s no doubt that today’s announcement was disappointing. We would have rather seen those thousands of jobs come to the U.S., specifically Oklahoma, than go across the border to Canada. That said, Oklahoma has never been in a position to compete with an entire country for a major project, but that’s exactly what we did and it’s a testament to the hard work of state leaders in the Legislature and the Commerce Department who are making Oklahoma the most business-friendly state in the nation. Now we are right back to work pursuing additional opportunities in the pipeline and will continue our critical efforts to help companies who are already in Oklahoma expand and grow. I remain committed and optimistic that if we continue to work together, Oklahoma will land one of these historic opportunities.Governor Kevin Stitt
Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, says ‘extreme rhetoric’ in the Sooner State had a hand to play in VW’s decision.
It really is disappointing that Volkswagen has chosen Canada over Oklahoma. If opened, it would have been a top-five employer in the state. I know a lot of people in my district and in the Tulsa metro who could have used a high-paying manufacturing job with one of the globe’s most recognizable brands.
Reflecting on what went wrong, my hunch is that it is not a winning economic strategy to have a secretary of education who demeans higher education and actively works to dismantle public education.
I hope we can use this missed opportunity to have serious conversations about the type of environment Oklahoma presents businesses looking for a new home.Representative Monroe Nichols
Oklahoma has until April 15 to lure another company to the Sooner State with the LEAD Act incentive package.
If not, the money allocated will go back into the state’s General Revenue Fund.
KFOR reached out to Ryan Walters’ team to get their response to Representative Nichols’ statement and is still waiting to hear back.