Can a green-economy boom town be built to last?

When the plant reduced production in the 2000s and closed in 2015, when it came to white-collar job cuts, Normal felt the pinch. Suppliers camped, and many workers left in search of new jobs. Uptown, a beautiful, brick-accented district with a restored 1930s theater and a pair of suddenly much larger hotels, became a monument to the city’s fading prosperity.

Local politicians and business leaders adopted Rivian, which is based in Michigan and has positions in other states, Canada and the UK, as a way to fill in the blanks. But residents of a place that has endured such a change of fate can be forgiven for wondering how long the good times will continue today.

Electric vehicles require fewer workers than gasoline-powered ones. And while Rivian’s prospects appear strong — it filed for a public stock offering In August, the company could be overwhelmed by a growing list of competitors — seeking a valuation of nearly $70 billion. At some point, the spending spree will end, and the local industry will rise or fall depending on whether Rivian can build a larger customer base.

The initial foam is already coming to an end. After reaching more than 200 employees earlier this year, Weber Electric has shrunk to around 100. “We’ve taken it back a little bit,” said the owner, Mr Mosier, who said he hopes to reconnect workers as the plant goes green. – More construction lights.

As such, the electric vehicle boom is a microcosm for the larger transition to a low-carbon economy: as governments and investors pour hundreds of billions of dollars into green industries, an initial setback is sure to happen. But will it work?

Not everyone in Normal has any connection to the Rivian plant, the company’s only production facility; It just seems like it sometimes. Sitting in a lobby at the plant one afternoon in June, Katie Tilly, who helps oversee workplace operations such as site design and dining, said her younger brother, who had just left the Marine Corps, would join the company the following week. were starting.

“My little brother works in the battery department!” Her colleague Laura Evans, a community relations employee, nodded. “We were so different, our parents would never have expected us to work in the same place.”

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