As reported on WGLT.org

Rivian has leased the Phoenix Investors warehouse in north Normal as part of its ramp-up to production.

The company that will make electric vans, SUVs and trucks said it will use the 500,000-square-foot building as a logistical center for parts as the plant moves toward production in 2021.

“We’re looking at probably 30-40 Rivian employees that will be on-site at this warehouse location. They will be sorting parts for the vehicle builds as they come in. There will be in the neighborhood of 2,000 different parts coming into that facility,” said plant spokesperson Zach Dietmeier. “It’s a good staging ground for us. It’s close to the plant, but also allows us to use the entirety of the space inside the factory to build vehicles over the next several years.”

Phoenix Investors is a national private commercial real estate firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“Rivian’s investment in the Normal region will attract other cutting-edge companies and drive the creation of high-quality jobs to the region,” said Anthony Crivello, executive vice president at Phoenix Investors.

Phoenix had earlier said there is a possibility of doubling the size of the old Wildwood Industries site at Main Street and Kerrick Road that fell vacant in 2008 amid the Great Recession and a federal fraud case that caused Wildwood to collapse. Dietmeier said that was a consideration in going forward on the lease, though there is not a current commitment to grow there.

Rivian is expected to take possession of the warehouse in March after it is completed and the company makes some interior changes are made before production begins in the summer.

“We appreciate the investment Rivian is making in the Town of Normal. The economic benefits of their work ripples throughout the county, central Illinois and beyond,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. “We also recognize and appreciate the commitment of Phoenix Investors in creating a facility to meet Rivian’s needs.”

That investment will ramp up in 2021. Current employment is 620 people at the Rivian plant. Another 30 will come on board by the end of the year, Koos said last week during a Chamber of Commerce update.

Dietmeier said another 600 or so workers will be hired during the first half of 2021.

“It’s going to be a wide portfolio of what those folks will be, everything from a line worker, all the way up through equipment technicians and some more advanced manufacturing. We’re still writing the plans for what that looks like,” he said.

Dietmeier noted the old Mitsubishi plant Rivian bought for its facility drew workers from Peoria and a 60-mile radius of Bloomington-Normal. He said that is likely to remain the case. More than half of Mitsubishi workers lived in Peoria, according to old plant data.

“I think we’re going to see a steady stream of hiring throughout 2021 and even into 2022,” said Dietmeier. “Start of production does not mean we’re at full capacity. It’s a starting point.”

Rivian already has pumped $215 million into the plant so far and more will be coming.

“Much like the hiring ramp, it’s fluid, but we’re talking about at least that figure coming in the next year. I think we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-80 construction projects active on site with a total revamp of the facility as a whole,” said Dietmeier. “The investment from hiring to construction to continuous improvement is something I don’t think we have seen in this community for many years.”